Live Review: Mastodon - O2 Guildhall Southampton 17/01/19

Photo Credit:  Jimmy Hubbard

Photo Credit: Jimmy Hubbard

Last week we caught Mastodon live with support from Kvelertak and Mutoid Man at, O2 Guildhall Southampton.

The stature of heavy metal bands was previously distilled down to whether or not they were one of the ‘Big Four’ (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax). Given the expansion of genres falling within the more extreme end of guitar music, these days such matters are arguably more nuanced. While this reviewer always felt that Atlanta’s progressive metal overlords Mastodon were the rightful heirs to Metallica’s lofty metal status, one feels the band have found a happy medium playing (beyond proficiently) by their rules, operating somewhere between cult act and mainstream success (see last year’s Grammy win for ‘Best Metal Performance’ as an example of the latter). While the band’s albums have weaved intricately between ferocious metal, progressive wizardry and sludge rock tendencies, the quality of output remains at a near-ridiculously high level.

Kicking off tonight’s riff-fest was Mutoid Man, fronted by Cave In legend Stephen Brodsky. While an late arrival by yours truly (reason: attending a school parents evening; minus 50 rock and roll points) meant only capturing half the set, the three-piece left quite the impression with their frenzied explosion of hardcore riffs and Brodsky’s ever-strong vocals. Well received, things off to a great start.

After killing a bit of time by balking at the current price of merchandise (£90 for a hoodie?!), next up was witnessing Kvelertak’s mix of (black) metal-infused punk rock which, on paper, appeared a good match for the evening. Soon hitting their groove, the Norwegian’s effective, more straightforward hard-rocking approach was perhaps best encapsulated by the set’s classic-rock-tinged centrepiece ‘1985’, taken from 2016’s ‘Nattesferd’. While vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen demanded more from the crowd during their set, the band seemed happy enough ploughing through their good-time noise.

By the time Mastodon hit the stage, the Guildhall had filled up nicely. As the opening salvo of ‘Iron Tusk’ and early classic ‘March of the Fire Ants’ laid utter waste to all attending, the unveiled laser lights and visual backdrop added a welcome headlining vibe. From here on in, a masterclass of tech-metal was offered up to the ecstatic crowd, in the form of a career-spanning set list of bangers. While not the most animated of live bands, it’s amazing how almost nonchalant their playing is, given the level of dexterity. It’s also obligatory with any Mastodon review to note the mind-numbing quality of Brann Dailor’s jaw-dropping drumming.

The addition of (post-metal forefathers) Neurosis’s Scott Kelly toward the latter half of the set provided a great moment, impressing with how his larynx-shredding both perfectly complimented the band while upping the intensity levels. The early detonation of ‘Streambreather' from 2017’s ‘Emperor of Sand’ was a contender for set highlight, although near-closer ‘Diamond in the Witch House’ left a fairly brutal mark. Mind you, all the ‘Leviathan’ era material slayed, primarily on account of it being ONE OF THE GREATEST METAL ALBUMS EVER RECORDED. A furious ‘Blood and Thunder’ brought the night to a close, leaving the evening to offer up the question of why Mastodon aren't the biggest metal band in the world. Because they really really should be.  

Words of DS_convertible

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