There are plenty of characters that pop up throughout [artist id="1228325"]Mastodon[/artist]'s epic Crack the Skye album, which hit stores Tuesday (March 24) — if you're not up to speed on the backstory, Masto drummer Brann Dailor explains it here — but there's perhaps no character as central to the entire story as Grigori Rasputin.
There are several reasons for this. Most of them involve the fact that Rasputin — the bearded Russian mystic who influenced the tsars, drank heavily and had his way with the ladies — totally ruled.
"Yeah, he's awesome. We always wanted to pay respects to Rasputin, this amazing character in history," Mastodon singer/guitarist Brent Hinds laughed. "He was invincible. They tried to poison him, they shot him — it didn't work. ... They finally had to drown him."
"There are so many rumors that surround his death. They fed him poisoned cakes, and he ate, like, eight of them but didn't die. So they shot him, but he survived. And finally, they had to, like, knock him out and throw him in a river," Dailor added. "And when they got him out, and he had officially drowned, they burned his body, and he sat up, and everybody was like, 'Oh my God, Rasputin, he's still alive! Jesus!' So, I mean, how could we not write about that guy?"
So they did ... a lot. Rasputin shows up about midway through [article id="1605029"]Crack the Skye[/article] — as the vessel for the spirit of a paraplegic boy who is lost in a nether realm and needs a way back home (seriously) — and doesn't leave until the very end. It is perhaps the most fitting tribute to the mystic in the history of heavy music. The result is impressive, even for a band known for stretching technical metal to its limits, both sonically and conceptually. In fact, Mastodon may very well have created an entire new genre of music: Let's call it "Rasputin rock."
"It's just really intriguing, and I think Rasputin kind of got a bad rap, you know, because he liked the ladies," Dailor smiled, before launching into a graphic description of part of the long-dead Russian's anatomy, which is reportedly kept in a jar at a museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
"No way, really? See, even I didn't know that," Hinds added. "Bottom line, he was handsome, and he was very knowledgeable, and he ruled that scene with an iron fist. That's awesome."