Mastodon

support Red Fang
author AP date 16/01/12 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Looking at the gig calendar for Denmark this year, it will be impossible for me to attend all the awesome concerts taking place without making significant sacrifices in my work, studies and bank balance. Tonight's highly anticipated concert, however, was never open for discussion: Mastodon were coming to Denmark, and I would be there regardless of the circumstances. Although the news that The Dillinger Escape Plan would be supporting the goliath on the UK dates only left me with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, there was nothing that could conceivably pollute the high expectations I had for this concert.

Red Fang

Red Fang consolidate what we already know to be true of the Danish metal scene: most people here tend only to like death, black, thrash and sludge metal, while everything else is regarded as "emo". As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that Red Fang receive a fantastic welcome, much more so than they did last summer supporting The Ocean at the tiny Templet venue in Lyngby. That performance left me a little cold for its lack of memorabilia, but tonight the band performs with rejuvenated energy and, above all, conviction. Red Fang show both professionalism and humility as they pound through a good 45 minutes of quality sludge with punk, psychedelic and progressive undertones often embellishing the mix. This adds brilliant texture to their music, and helps set them apart in a genre that's becoming increasingly populated by similar sounding bands. In fact, Red Fang are indisputably at their best when they break into a droning, acidic jam or parts that sound unmistakably similar to tonight's headliners. During these parts the band is also at its most energetic, with plenty of headbanging, instrument swinging and impassioned expressions elevating the band's live character above so many of their peers. The crowd is thoroughly entertained, and despite my initial skepticism, I couldn't imagine a better warm-up band for Mastodon.

Mastodon

During their rise to one of the biggest and most popular metal bands of the generation, Mastodon have always taken great pride in challenging conventions, both musically and characteristically. Tonight is no exception: the band pounds through 23 brilliant songs without so much as uttering a word or pausing for a breath. Not many bands can get away with such arrogance, but when executed with an ironic glee, it is surprisingly intriguing, and helps veil the band in mystery. It is partly this air mystery that separates Mastodon from the general mass, and makes songs like "Black Tongue", "Sleeping Giant" and "Crack the Skye" stand out as even more unique.

When Mastodon told the media that their newest album, "The Hunter", was written specifically with concerts in mind, there was some concern that the band might have sold out of their odd intrigue to cater to a wider audience, and while this is certainly true of songs like "Curl of the Burl" and "All the Heavy Lifting", hearing the eight songs selected from it for this tour live gives the band's claims rock hard credibility. They sound absolutely phenomenal live, with particularly "Curl of the Burl" and "Spectrelight" providing some of the standout moments of tonight's performance alongside live staples like "Crystal Skull", "I am Ahab", "Colony of Birchmen", "Aqua Dementia", "March of the Fire Ants" and "Iron Tusk". There isn't a whole lot of physical response from the crowd aside from widespread headbanging, horns and screams of approval, but even so a universal understanding that Mastodon is truly - both live and on album - one of the most influential and inventive metal bands of our time reigns inside the venue.

It resonates from Brent Hinds' and Troy Sanders' sly face expressions and baffling vocal performances; from Brann Dailor's extraordinary drumming skill and unconventional style; and from the band's unbelievable tightness and energy as a unit. No wonder the audience descends into madness come the modern classic "Blood and Thunder": witnessing the power of this song live is an experience beyond description. Sadly that experience falters somewhat upon the band's decision to conclude the set with the worst song off the new album, "Creature Lives", which sees the band invite the members of Red Fang on stage for a massive sing-song in fashion that seems a bit too mainstream for a band like Mastodon. Nonetheless, it is impossible to point a finger at mistakes, deficiencies or discrepancies in the band's performance tonight; with an almost unnatural ease, Mastodon set the standard for concerts to come this year.

Setlist:

  • 01. Dry Bone Valley
  • 02. Black Tongue
  • 03. Crystal Skull
  • 04. I am Ahab
  • 05. Capillarian Crest
  • 06. Colony of Birchmen
  • 07. Megalodon
  • 08. Thickening
  • 09. Blasteroid
  • 10. Sleeping Giant
  • 11. Ghost of Karelia
  • 12. All the Heavy Lifting
  • 13. Spectrelight
  • 14. Curl of the Burl
  • 15. Bedazzled Fingernails
  • 16. Circle of Cysquatch
  • 17. Aqua Dementia
  • 18. Crack the Skye
  • 19. Where Strides the Behemoth
  • 20. Iron Tusk
  • 21. March of the Fire Ants
  • 22. Blood and Thunder
  • 23. Creature Lives

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