The Big Top, Luna Park, 28th March 2015
As far as I’m concerned, a reputation is no mere coincidence; it’s something that’s earned. For the past 13 years, Mastodon have worked tirelessly to obtain and uphold their sterling reputation as one of the best and diverse metal bands in the world. Having dipped their toes in the pools of progressive metal, sludge metal, alternative metal and psychedelic metal, the boys from Atlanta have proven again and again, their ability to adapt and create through their music bouts of ruthless hostility, that prove both terrifying and beautiful in equal measure.
One would only have to take a brief look into their rich catalogue to learn that these men had no interest in resting on their laurels, constantly pushing to develop, improve and expand upon previous sounds. Their newest material is quite significantly less abrasive and not quite as heavy as their early work, shifting from predominantly rough vocals to cleaner vocals and a far more intricate songwriting style.
Musically, Mastodon are near peerless not only in the realm of metal, but rock in general; this also happened to be my biggest worry going into their show at the Big Top, Luna Park. I feared that a band with such distinct vocals (3 vocalists!) and fantastically intertwined and layered material simply wouldn’t be able to reproduce what they created in the studio on a live setting. Laughing in the face of my fear though, Mastodon completely and absolutely put any concern I had to bed in the very opening minute. Kicking things off with, ‘Tread Lightly’, the opener of their latest album, ‘Once More Round The Sun’, the expert rockers created an atmosphere that resembled one of preparing to wage war in a mythical battle.
Throughout the night they treated the show just as they would one of their songs, slowly brooding and pulsating, building tension for the eventual explosion. The first portion of their performance mostly was comprised of tracks from their last two albums, which perfectly demonstrated just how good each of their vocalists are. Perhaps most recognizable due to his ridiculously awesome beard and voice, rough vocalist/ bassist, Troy Sanders defied every expectation I thought I had to the point that the Vikings themselves would have been proud of him. Unlike many metal singers who just come out and yell the lyrics of each track unwittingly, Sanders performed each song with a passion, conviction and ability, which sounded damn near identical to what is heard on their records. Any fan of Mastodon’s music would understand how mightily impressive a feat that is in itself. The clean vocals provided by the duo of lead guitarist, Brent Hinds and drummer, Brann Dailor created the perfect contrast for the night, lending rhythm and melody for every bone-crushing roar that Sanders lay onto the audience.
The performance of, ‘Ol’e Nessie’, midway through the night was a definite highlight, reaching all the way back to their humble beginnings, showcasing more of the band’s instrumental talent than anything else. Followed a short time after by the extraordinary drum solo by Brann Dailor (perhaps the best drummer I have ever seen live), one could sense a turning point in the show. The aggression was fast approaching; and not just the type of aggression that had already been showcased since the beginning of the night, I mean the proper aggression, the kind that festers in you, compelling you to smash, destroy and annihilate anything and everything in your path. Right on time.
Another highlight and pivotal moment in their quest to escalate the Big Top’s energy to fever pitch, ‘Divinations’ and it’s instantly recognizable lead-in sent the crowd into raptures. This set the foundations for what would eventually become the end. With the audience roaring and head banging their way into the penultimate song, ‘Crystal Skull’, the stage had well and truly been set for the dramatic finale which most would either have predicted or prayed to have been: ‘Blood and Thunder’. The instant Brent Hinds strung the opening riff, was truly one of utter euphoria for the near 3000 strong in attendance. After all the buildup, and all the intensity, to finally hear it was unlike anything else; the collective voices of every fan belting out the opening lines was enough to make your hairs stand on end. This proved to be a stunning conclusion to an absolutely amazing performance, one that I still thank my lucky stars I had the good fortune to be a part of.
Throughout their career they’ve put in the reps and the results are stupidly evident. Mastodon are the kings, the Sydney show only once again cementing their well deserved reputation for sheer excellence.
Josh Di Matteo
see more photos here