With Saturday night's Seattle performance, the second of their latest assault on the U.S., Mastodon furthered their claim as kings of wormhole-tearing, time-traveling meta-metal. The Atlanta quartet devoted most of their 70-minute set to Crack the Skye, their recent, mainstream-courting opus, then reeled back through their catalog. Behind them was the sort of big-budget backdrop they've always deserved: a drive-in-wide digital video screen lit with vintage black-and-white hellspliotation footage, animated mandalas and various filmic versions of Rasputin's bearded torment. The combination of ear-crushing sonics and twisted imagery was a sensory steamroller that drove the swirling, sweaty mass of moshers and crowd surfers center-floor. Several shoes and hoodies went flying in the melee.
Every Mastodon show is a window into their influences, from galloping Metallica-like aggression to ZZ Top's bluesy grind to the eerie, Ozzy-esque wailing of singers Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders. On Saturday, Pink Floyd was the touchstone, albeit a Floyd pumped near bursting with testosterone and adrenaline, mind-bending through sheer abusive volume. The bombastic psychedelia was most evident during the 13-minute, multi-movement odyssey "The Last Baron." Throughout, Hinds wielded a Lucite Flying V, his solos during balanced between technique and raw aggression. During the Crack the Skye portion of the set, a keyboardist added gothic organ and regal piano.
Thanks to his furious leads (and face tats), Hinds seemed Mastodon's obvious point man, but really drummer Brann Dailor ran the stage. Dailor's a rock & roll athlete, conditioned for power and endurance, one of modern rock's most gifted drummers. His rhythms power Mastodon's stampede. He held back on the double bass drum until "Ghost of Karelia" and the effect was like a dam breaking.
After running through Crack the Skye, the band took a brief break, then returned sans keyboardist to fall backwards into numbers from 2006's Blood Mountain and 2004's Leviathan. These songs reveal the faster/harder side of Mastodon's past, prior to the 2007 incident that left Hinds in a coma and forever altered the band's sound. "March of the Fire Ants" from their 2002 debut Remission was the last blast, Kelliher going full-bore screamo.
At the end of the set — pretty much identical to the ones they've been playing since the March release of Crack the Skye — Dailor emerged from behind his kit to thank the sweat-drenched crowd. Other than that, there was no banter, no break in the faÃ§ade. Somehow Mastodon is not headlining this tour; a cartoon band called Dethklok is. Don't be fooled.
"Ghost of Karelia"
"Crack The Skye"
"The Last Baron"
"Colony of Birchmen"
"March of the Fire Ants"