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As they celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their break out Crack The Skye fans just want to talk about their Game of Thrones cameos

Fillmore Auditorium | June 19

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By Benjamin Hutcherson

Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

Ten years ago, Atlanta-based metal quartet Mastodon released their fourth album, Crack The Skye. The record found the group channeling their progressive influences while embracing a newfound emotional honesty and it connected profusely. It debuted at an astounding number 11 on the Billboard 200 — a huge feat for a metal album. The New York Times, yes, The New York Times reviewed Crack The Skye, calling it an “ambitious vision and vivid execution.”

Pitchfork put it a bit more poetically calling the album a collection of “soupy quasi-jazz trundles and pigfuck distortion-explosions and quick bursts of time-honored Southern-rock melody.”

“I think there’s a real heart to [Crack The Skye] that people picked up on,” said drummer-vocalist Brann Dailor during a recent interview with The Marquee. There was a personal touch to that record that wasn’t really there before – a deep, evocative, tangible honesty that resonated with the listener. A lot of the arrangements and riffs in it were pretty crazy, and Brent [Hinds, guitar/vocals] had some of his most genius moments on those songs. I think it was the culmination of everything we’d done, everywhere we’d been. You could hear that we were reaching for a different, new plateau; we were really going for it, you know?”

Dailor admitted that the band knew that they were taking a chance with the record’s unabashedly progressive character. “When we first started playing some songs off the album for people, there was some hesitation, like ‘I dunno, it’s not brutally heavy. It’s different from your older stuff.’ Thankfully, it didn’t take long for people to see what we were doing and recognize that this was an earnest move. I feel like you can hear the authenticity in it, and it seemed that even the people who were unsure at first understood that we were following something that was sort of beyond us as well.”

The album would go on to transform the band from an underground darling to a mainstream metal titan. Nearly a decade into their career, the group’s DIY days were officially a thing of the past. They said goodbye to the days of crappy tour vans and dingy club gigs. They began polishing Best Of awards from the likes of Spin, Kerrang! and Time, and even appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, I pine for the ‘van days’ a little bit,” said Dailor. “There was no real pressure, no one knew who we were, no one was really expecting anything: it was just really fun. When you’re playing shows in dive bars and basements, you feel free; I think I probably had some of my best drumming moments at those kinds of shows. When you add the pressure that comes with ‘success’ – the stage show, the thousands of people watching – you just think, ‘I really wanna make sure that everyone feels like they’re getting the show that they deserve, because they paid all of this money and they’re expecting something great. I have to give that to them.’

“A lot of that pressure is self-applied,” he explained. “It’s not like anyone’s coming to the show and saying ‘Hey! You better not screw up.’ There was just something relaxed about those old shows, all of the house parties that we played. We didn’t really have any expectations about where we were headed or what we were doing. Of course, there are also plenty of aspects of the ‘van days’ that I don’t think I’d really love as a 44-year-old man. Sleeping on people’s floors. Waking up and realizing I’ve slept a little too close to the litter box. Finding my face completely covered in cat litter and possibly some cat pee. Those are the moments where I’d think ‘This is a young man’s game right here.’”

Mastodon’s success and their somewhat barbaric image also landed them a pair of guest appearances as Wildlings-turned-White Walkers on Game of Thrones. “After our first time on the show, it came up in conversations a lot. A lot. If somebody knows about [our cameos]and they’re a big fan of GoT, the show is pretty much all they want to talk about. I think that the show’s fandom far surpasses the Mastodon fandom, and if someone’s a fan of both, then usually they just want to ask how the show will end — because they totally told a metal band with a few minutes of guest appearances the ending to this wildly successful show, right?” he laughed.

But the band did get the chance to get in on some of the plot twists during their filming, Dailor said. “The second time we were on, we were filming in front of a massive green screen. We’re standing in this room and the director is just pointing at stuff and saying ‘OK you’re looking up, and the wall is coming down…and the wall is still coming down. Remember, there is a fire breathing dragon.’ Not only is nothing there in front of us, but the three of us were like ‘What? The wall is coming down?’ That wasn’t something anyone knew, so suddenly we were in the middle of a giant spoiler and the episode wasn’t going to air for several months!”

From strangers’ floors to Westeros, Mastodon has covered a lot of ground in the last decade. Crack The Skye was undeniably an integral element of that success, so the group wanted to do something special to celebrate with their fans. “Troy [Sanders, bass/vocals] suggested we go out and do the album in full in a few major cities, maybe six or seven dates. But then this popped up and the timing couldn’t have been better.”

By “this,” Dailor meant “The Unheavenly Skye Tour,” the band’s co-headlining run with Coheed and Cambria (which also features raucous hardcore/punk outfit Every Time I Die).

“We’ve talked about touring together for years. I mean, we’ve talked about touring with a lot of different bands, and we’ve toured with a ton of different bands, but this is one idea that both [headlining]bands kept bringing up for several years. It’s finally happening now that the planets aligned. We’d met and hung out with those guys several times, playing the same festivals and stuff, and the parting words when we stumbled off their tour bus, or vice versa, were the same ones that every band has uttered to every other band in existence at one point or another: ‘Dude, we gotta tour together, bro!’”

Fillmore Auditorium | June 19

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