Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Mastodon - Brixton Academy, London 28/11/14

04 December 2014, 10:30 | Written by Dannii Leivers

When sludge barbarians Mastodon last played Brixton Academy in 2012, they marked the occasion by filming the show for a live DVD. At the time the Atlantans had just entered a new chapter of their career. 2011’s The Hunter saw them eschew mind-boggling, mathy thrash-outs based on Moby Dick (Leviathan), mythical creatures and breathing mountains (Blood Mountain) and astral travel involving Rasputin (Crack the Skye). Out went the silly concepts; in came tight, focussed riffery.

Tonight they’re back at Brixton, but the band that stand before us in 2014 is a different, albeit just as hairy, beast to the one that last graced this stage. Mastodon are so terrifyingly manly, they look and sound like they kill and eat bears for breakfast. On the other hand they’re here to plug recent album Once More ‘Round the Sun, easily their most accessible but least heavy offering so far. For most other metal bands, veering off down a road less brainy and less brawny amounts to ‘losing your edge’. Not so when you’re still the most technically capable and brutally innovative of the big hitters out there. Take latest single “High Road”, a highlight tonight and the closest Mastodon will ever come to a radio-friendly ditty. Crunchy and snarling in the verses, it gives way to a shining chorus and a kaleidoscopic guitar solo, followed by another as knotty as gnarled wood, then one more that sounds like the end of the world.

All that said, things start off sounding a bit like Queens of the Stone Age. The ornate psychedelia of trio; “Tread Lightly”, “Once More ‘Round the Sun” and “Blasteroid” followed by a heavy-lidded Oblivion and jaunty ‘The Motherload’ constitute a more muted opening than what we’re used to, but musically they’re still ruthlessly proficient. Brann Dailor is one of modern metal’s greatest drummers who remarkably manages to sing vocals between blistering fills. Out front, the remaining behemoths cut three very different personalities. Lead guitarist Brent Hinds is responsible for most of the jaw-dropping fret work. Rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher is the muscular and brooding structural pillar of the band. Bassist Troy Sanders sings the majority of the vocals and giddily strikes the rock star poses. Every track sounds like it contains three separate songs. Time signature changes are relentless and fluid, while vocals segue from Hinds’ enamel-striping barks into bassist Troy Sanders’ groaning swell. There’s more light than ever amongst the shade, proving that they can do more than just batter people in the face.

Pummelling is what Mastodon do best though, and this crowd have gathered here to partake in as much of it as possible. While a focus on newer tracks was inevitable, the older material is too thinly spread. No Mastodon gig should ever pass without airing of “March of the Fire Ants”, the filthy, oppressively heavy ruckus from debut album Remission, but tonight it does. Unsurprising, the biggest roars of the night come from the older material. A ferocious “Aqua Dementia” from Leviathan and the primal thrash of the rarely played ‘Ole Nessie’ see horns raised and the band give the crowd what they’re hankering for with a satisfying culmination of ‘old classics’; a roaring “Megalodon”, deliciously doomy “Crystal Skull” and the raw horror of “Blood and Thunder”. Yes, their newer material may have a softer edge but a Mastodon on half-barbarian mode still wipes the floor with most bands of their ilk.

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