Mastodon May 3, House of Blues
Mastodon set the ground rules for its Saturday set at House of Blues within the first few notes of show-opener “Hearts Alive,” the 14-minute epic from 2004’s Leviathan: This would be a night for the die-hards, and anything from the band’s past—or future—could possibly come up next.
The Atlanta-based quartet drew largely from a list of Leviathan, Blood Mountain (2006) and Crack the Skye (2009) songs they haven’t played in a while, but one highlight was “Crusher Destroyer” from 2002 debut Remission. The sludgy frenzy of that track got the band just a bit more animated than it was for much of the night, save for similarly thrashy moments in “Trampled Under Hoof,” “Aqua Dementia” and the like.
That’s not to say the band lacked energy. Guitarist Bill Kelliher and bassist Troy Sanders both look like they’re having a blast onstage, and drummer Brann Dailor sounds as tight as ever. But the crafted and honed passages from the band’s concept-album years generally don’t lend themselves to the wilder shows you see elsewhere in the genre. Mastodon fans likely know this ahead of time, but it warrants notice when the group plays with openers Kvelertak and Gojira, both of which put on very vivid performances.
What Mastodon lacked in stage antics, it easily made up for with a massive sound that pairs with the equally huge concepts the band has woven over the years. Sanders’ and Brent Hinds’ vocals went from vicious to haunting and back again, particularly on the gloom-soaked “Oblivion” and in the catchy “High Road.”
If that last track doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because this tour debuted two tracks from upcoming album, Once More ’Round the Sun. “High Road” is the album’s first single and has the potential to be an earworm, with a catchy, chunky riff and an infectious chorus. The harder-edged “Chimes at Midnight” starts sludgy before hitting a quicker pace, with hints of “Spectrelight” and “Crack the Skye” for brief moments. After a night celebrating Mastodon’s past triumphs, it’s good to hear that the new stuff might someday be worthy of similar homage.