Mastodon in the Academy, Dublin, 12 June 2013
With a back catalogue of concept albums featuring highly technical instrumentals and complex lyrical themes, Mastodon have received much critical acclaim for their willingness to experiment. But while it may be the progressive side of their persona which led to this acclaim, their live show serves as reminder that they are still an incredibly heavy act, capable of unleashing a pure metal fury.
Right from the start the Atlanta natives revelled in their huge, elemental sound. Opening up with a ferocious salvo of primal energy, Black Tongue hit the audience with a wall of sound that barely let up for the remainder of the show.
Mastodon’s set flowed quickly from clean vocal harmonies and symphonic structures to guttural roars and sludgy, distortion fuelled chaos. But behind all of the primordial fury lay a highly technical and carefully orchestrated design.
All of this happened with barely a moment’s rest between songs. Even when they had to change instruments, the band did so with the precision of a Formula One pit crew. This left no time for audience interaction between songs. As the end of the show approached the band didn’t even leave the stage and return for an encore. They kept playing at one pace from start to finish.
While this resulted in some monumental moments in the set – the furious thrash-fuelled duo of Stargasm and Balsteroid, the technical brilliance of Crack the Skye and Aqua Dementia and the anthemic Curl of the Burl – all of it was performed in a somewhat static manner. Everything seemed highly rehearsed and precise, with no space allowed for the organic looseness and improvisation that a lot of bands bring to a live show.
All of would all seemed a bit flat if not for one thing – the sheer precision that was evident throughout. Despite all the furious metal energy, Mastodon are clearly a tightly honed musical machine, playing off each other with perfectly rehearsed grace.
As the show reached its monstrous conclusion, things only got faster and heavier with Iron Tusk and Blood and Thunder – both taken from the album ‘Leviathan’, a concept album inspired by the novel ‘Moby Dick’. It felt like the band was building up to a finale of colossal proportions, but things ended up going in a slightly different direction.
Never a band to do anything the conventional way, Mastodon’s final track of the night was also the slowest and most graceful. Drummer Brann Dailor took on vocal duties for The Sparrow, an eerie, evocative song that was far mellower than everything else in the set, but still one that did not lack in progressive guitar solos.
The lack of an encore break meant the end of the show came abruptly, but the sheer level of technical skill that the was on display was enough to patch over any flaws in the way it was delivered.