Mastodon w/ Against Me! – [Live]

Wednesday, 09 May 2007

Just when you thought you’ve outgrown heavy metal, along come a band called Mastodon. Their name alone evokes a primal, prehistoric struggle for survival in a world that can be both dangerous and healing. The growling wails of vocalists Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds appeal to the most ancient parts of the cerebral cortex as you take in music that franticly expresses the struggle of man on a gut level. Mastodon is able to transform their music from calm to fury in the blink of an eye with sophisticated time-change transitions that leave you confused and delighted at the same time. Just like the magical world described in their lyrics, Mastodon’s songs are full of surprises, delivered with the skill of accomplished musicians who know exactly how to play their instruments.

As I enter the Wiltern, the first thing I notice is a really young crowd. Fake ID’s must have gotten better since I was 20. How else do you explain the zit-faced kid powering down a Jack and Coke and high-fiving his buddy? The “emo” version of Beavis and Butthead? Pretty much. I get my drinks and have a seat. Next band up is opener Against Me! The kids really seem to like them. They crank out a bunch of well-polished anthems that sound like a weird mix of Flogging Molly and Green Day. But we’re at a metal show, right? At this point, I’m wondering who put the tour together. I’m guessing it was a label guy willing to test the profitability of introducing Mastodon to the kids. Smooth move man.

Mastodon’s opening song is an explosion. Loud as hell and disorienting—kaboom! Shell-shocked and confused, the kids that were previously chanting Against Me! get up and run for the door. By the third song, Mastodon cleared out most of the top terrace, leaving plenty of dedicated metal fans, and truly separating the men from the boys. If anything else, you should love Mastodon for their ability to scare the shit out of kids.

I get to my feet when I hear the doom-filled opening notes of “Sleeping Giant” off the Blood Mountain album. Its trance-like intro is hypnotic and seductive like the mythological Sirens’ song. As you’re quietly lured through the intro, your ship suddenly crashes onto a rocky shore in the form of a crescendo and the head-banging journey begins! Next the band works its way into the dizzying “Capillarian Crest.” The song is a total trip. Sober or stoned, if it’s the first time you’re hearing this song, you’ll be lost for sure. Drummer Brann Dailor does things on drums that boggle the mind. Brann has reached a level of mastery on drums that reminds me of the character Neo in The Matrix where his hands become a fast-forward whirl of effortless movement. He’s a freak of nature. With mathematical precision, guitarists Brent Hind and Bill Kelliher offer up their own version of Iron Maiden-esque dueling guitar parts that add to the off-kilter, hectic sound of “Capillarian Crest.” The song is truly an event.

As the set rolls on, the band breaks into the ultra-rocking “Colony of Birchmen.” Shockingly, I’ve seen the video for this track on MTV2. I was glad someone over at the MTV network pulled their head out of their ass and found some sense. This song’s riff is so contagious, it will automatically loop itself through your mind’s ear until it’s unexplainably replaced by that horrible Kenny G song played through the speakers at the grocery store. At the end of the night, I can safely say that I witnessed one of the top 10 live bands spanning all genres of music because a band like Mastodon don’t grow on trees. These are a group of highly creative, experienced, and road tested dudes who I predict will continue to push the boundaries of their craft to the fullest with each album to come.

Blood Mountain is out now on Warner/Reprise

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