Manchester Academy 1
The monolithic Mastodon returns to Manchester in support of their sixth studio album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, demonstrating exactly why they deserve their legendary status in metal. The American four-piece, hailing from Atlanta, are renowned for their heavy and progressive style, expressed through intricately psychedelic leads, crunchy riffs and poetic lyricism. With album concepts ranging from Moby Dick (Leviathan) to the journey of the soul (Crack the Skye), Mastodon is a band that is clearly not afraid to experiment with unorthodoxy and have established a name for themselves with their artistic vision and technical ability.
While the newer material Mastodon has put out has been criticized by older fans for its more accessible sound, lighter tone, and (gasp) conventional song structures, it doesn’t seem to inhibit the craziness of Mastodon’s live show. Taking the stage of a packed out Academy 1 to a nightmarish backdrop created by Skinner, the man responsible for the cover art of Once More ‘Round the Sun, Mastodon opened with ‘Tread Lightly.’ The building intro of the track signalled the creation of a mosh pit that never seemed to close, the unending energy of the crowd maintaining the vortex of limbs and blood until the close of the gig. Mastodon’s penchant for big sing-along, borderline poppy, choruses in their recent albums ensures massive audience participation. This was especially apparent during ‘The Motherload’ and ‘Aunt Lisa,’ which had the crowd belting out the lyrics. But it was their older material that stood out that night. Brent Hinds’ labyrinthine solo on ‘Oblivion’ had the first few rows completely transfixed on his guitar, while the utter insanity of ‘Bladecatcher’ and ‘Aqua Dementia’ caused bodies to surf over head and an already violent pit to intensify. Mastodon ended the gig on fan-favourite ‘Blood and Thunder,’ a track heavier and more metal than a stampede of fucking trains.
I went into this show with high hopes and it was everything I expected it to be, from the raw energy of the band to the aroma of weed that descended when the lights dimmed. Unfortunately the second act, Big Business, introduced the show in a less-than-amazing fashion due to entirely unintelligible vocals, though the musicianship beyond that was pretty good. Mastodon put on one hell of a show and, whether you’re a fan of the band or just the genre in general, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to experience it for yourself. Just stay out of the pits if you would rather leave uninjured.