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14th December 2017

Live Review: Mastodon

The sludge-stoner metal kings proved that they’re still reigning at a sold-out Academy

Metal is an incredibly diverse genre with a myriad of sub-genres to fit every preference. Within these clusters, there are very talented musicians and, well, not-so musically gifted musicians, as in any genre.

You can have American sludge metal, stoner rock, and even prog metal giants. Mastodon fall into the former, thankfully. Since their formation in 2000 they’ve released 2 EPs and 7 studio albums, the latest being the polarising yet Grammy nominated record Emperor of Sand. Their latest EP, Cold Dark Place, might I add, is phenomenal, with Brent Hinds wielding a Sho-Bud 13-string pedal steel guitar, an undeniable testament to the band’s talent.

Red Fang opened the gig with the highlight of their set being iWires’, a song that I was looking forward to hearing live since it popped up in my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify earlier this year. A small mosh pit had begun and there was headbanging galore.

A raucous cheer erupted from the front of the room and made its way to the posterior exit doors as Brent Hinds, Brann Dailor, Troy Sanders and Bill Kelliher took to the stage. They instantly broke into song, blessing our ears with intricate drumming, hypnotic riffs and deep vocals. Right before the show began I’d been informed that Mastodon had a reputation for being incredibly loud, and they certainly lived up to the legend.

Most of the bands songs have a playtime that surpasses the five minute mark, making for a hypnotic, almost trance-like performance that kept heads bobbing and feet stamping.

Brann Dailor must be commended for being one of a rare breed of rockers that happen to be able to play the drums furiously while singing their hearts out; Dave Grohl is on par with Brann, it’s fair to say. Only during ‘Show Yourself’ did his voice falter, understandably so considering that the vocals for that particular track are at a higher key than their other work.

The rest of the band were on form, as well, with a commendable and stellar performance to be noted by them all.

Judging by how well received each and every song was, fans were definitely pleased by the set list, a back-and-forth journey taking us through their early work from records such as ‘Crack the Skye’ and ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’. To my dismay, they did not perform ‘Curl of the Burl’ or ‘The Motherload’, which are some of my personal favourites from their collection.

The closer for the set was the legendary ‘Blood and Thunder’, an aggressive tale about Moby Dick that got the majority of the room bouncing back and forth. When tallying together the Spotify streams and YouTube views that the song has, the total plays surpass 16 million, so it’s fair to say that it may be their most popular track.

It was refreshing to see that the band had no encore, solidifying their “what you see is what you get” appearance that glows with a sense of maturity and experience, and an apparent sign of respect towards their predominantly middle-aged fan base. Only Dailor stayed onstage to address the floodlit room, thanking us for being there and saying how Manchester makes the band feel at home with a warm reception each time they come.

He also addressed a member of the audience by the name of Ivan, “Ivan the Terrible-at-moshing” joked Brann, because he’d been carried out of the crowd having broken his ankle in a mosh pit. “Hey Ivan, how about you look up ‘How to mosh properly’ on YouTube tomorrow?” he said, prompting a laugh from Academy’s attendees.

Mastodon are gifted musicians that delivered a hypnotic, epic show that rocked on for the best part of two hours until the 11 o’clock curfew. With an average release cycle of one record every two years, the giants will be back in Manchester soon, I’d hope, and they definitely will be headlining many rock festivals. Do yourself a favour and check them out, either online or in person, as they are more than worthy of the title: Rock Gods.


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