The best metal band of their generation blasted a capacity crowd at The Electric Factory with an impressive seventeen song career-spanning set on Saturday night. Over the course of fourteen years and five albums Mastodon has unleashed their musical ragings against the dying light and the general frustration of everyday human existence to an ever-increasing audience. Don’t let the “metal” classification scare you off though, theirs is thinking person’s music with complex, constantly shifting song structures and probing, literary lyrics usually provided by drummer Brann Dailor. Mastodon’s albums have frequently been thematic, with subjects like wormholes and being a soul inhabiting the body of the “mad monk” Grigori Rasputin (2009’s Crack The Skye) and Moby Dick (2004’s Leviathan.) Mastodon is on tour leading up to their much anticipated next album Once More Around The Sun that is due out June 24th.
The group took the stage with no fanfare and immediately launched into “Hearts Alive,” a thirteen minute-plus snake-like guitar opus from their breakthrough, Leviathan. Clouds of smoke billowed out from behind the stage, the band was bathed in an eerie grey/green light and the packed floor of the Electric Factory was immediately turned into a bobbing, horn-gesture-throwing, sweaty sea of bodies. At the back of the stage under a huge psychedelic painted backdrop and sandwiched between two huge stacks of amps, Dailor thunderously pounded his drums. Singer/Bassist Troy Saunders bounded around pumping out thudding bass notes and wailing into a mic at center stage. (By the way – Saunders has a Rasputin-like beard, which has it’s own Facebook page.) Guitarist Bill Kelliher and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds anchored the right and left sides of the stage respectively. Kelliher sports an impressive handlebar mustache and an even more impressive array of riffs that he spent ninety minutes dropping on the audience. Hinds is a bearded, burly menacing figure who facially resembles an angry Zeus on stage. He hurled forth lightning bolts from a battered Gibson SG all night long, unleashing blistering volleys of notes and hammering riffs to the crowd’s delight.
As the band played they were constantly bathed in aquatic green and blue lights or sinister red lights. Behind them, three light cannons alternated between blasting out grids of laser lights that segmented the air above the crowd and spewing forth shimmering holographic, 3-D, upside down pyramids of green light. One early musical highlight was “Capillarian Crest” with Dailor constantly leading the shifting gears of the song with his drumming and tight, spiralling interlocked guitar parts from Hinds and Kelliher. Mid-set came two highlights in the form of thrashing speed metal riffs of “Megalodon” and some amazing dark harmonies from Hinds, Saunders and Dailor on the cosmic stoner rock of “Oblivion.” Soon after the fans received a preview of their new album and maybe one of Mastodon’s best songs ever in “High Road,” a chugging rocker with a soaring chorus that manages to sound like something that might be blasting out of radios all this summer while simultaneously still sounding distinctly like Mastodon. They closed with a loud/soft combo of songs. First up was a thrashing rendition of “Aqua Dementia” that whipped the crowd into a moshing frenzy one last time. Mastodon followed it up with the almost prayerful dark beauty of “The Sparrow” which they dedicated to a lost friend before leaving the stage for the night, hopefully to return soon.