Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Live Show Review: Mastodon, Gojira, Kvelertak - 5/13/14

Mastodon, Gojira, Kvelertak
Date:  May 13, 2014
Venue:  9:30 Club, Washington, DC

Last Tuesday was the hottest day of the year so far in DC so it was only appropriate that DC's 9:30 Club host a sold out evening for the most scorching metal tour of the year so far - Mastodon with Gojira and Kvelertak supporting.

Mastodon (Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders)

Norway's top purveyors of beer soaked black n' roll, Kvelertak, hit the stage first.  This band's sophomore album Meir made my top ten list last year and I was lucky to catch them crush an awesome set at the tiny Rock & Roll Hotel too.  It's a tough proposition for a boisterous six-piece, whose amped-up party rock works best after guzzling a few brews, to capture a crowd that's still trickling in off the sidewalk - but Kvelertak had everyone in a stranglehold in short order.

Kvelertak (Marvin Nygaard, Erlend Hjelvik, and Kjetil Gjermundrod)

Lead screamer Erlend Hjelvik emerged with a stuffed owl on his head - by now a ridiculous ritual that will be tough to live down if the band ever try to get all Radiohead on us.  Not a chance - and the better for it.  Kvelertak fired through a short half-hour set of choice cuts from their debut and sophomore albums and, despite some mic issues that silenced some of the band's trademark gang-vocals, the band delivered.  It's fitting that Kvelertak linked up with Mastodon for this tour as (I've said this before) they're following a similar trajectory to crossover popularity.

Kvelertak (Marvin Nygaard, Erlend Hjelvik, and Kjetil Gjermundrod)

Next up, France's critically acclaimed technical death metal monsters Gojira. I'm not too familiar with these guys but I know a few good folks who swear by them.  The band, neatly dressed in black and not a single visible tattoo in the bunch, were the epitome of professional.  Lead guitarist Christian Andreu and frontman Joe Duplantier unleashed precision riffage while drummer Mario Duplantier hammered out blast-beats like a 50 cal machine gun.  Though I didn't know a single song, I was blown away by Gojira's commanding presence and energy. Can't wait to catch 'em again.

Gojira (Christian Andreu, Mario Duplantier, and Joe Duplantier)

Finally, Atlanta's progressive sludge metal titans Mastodon took their spots onstage in front of the roaring crowd.  The gentle sound of lapping waves filled the concert hall as the band teased out the winding intro to their roiling fourteen minute epic "Heart's Alive" from their classic sophomore album Leviathan.  With its meandering guitar twang, blistering solos, and knotty jazz percussion "Heart's Alive" reconfirmed Mastodon's debt to classic southern rockers like The Allman Brothers Band and prog-rock heroes Rush - putting them in a category altogether alien in heavy metal.

Gojira (Christian Andreu, Mario Duplantier, and Joe Duplantier)

Despite the imminent release of Mastodon's sixth studio LP Once More 'Round The Sun, out next monththis tour was unofficially promoted as a special treat for old school fans rather than a showcase of unfamiliar new material.  Riotous classics like "Crusher Destroyer," from their debut Remission, had co-vocalist and bass player Troy Sanders showing off much improved vocal control while progressive mind-fuck "Capillarian Crest," from Blood Mountain, had co-vocalist and lead guitarist Brent Hinds shredding in typical expert fashion.

Mastodon (Troy Sanders and Bill Kelliher)

Selections from The Hunter, Mastodon's most recent and radio-friendly album, not only featured more frequently in this set than expected but drew some of the best audience reaction.  With its pop-hooks and furious breakdown "Blasteroid" had the room going berserk, while the off-kilter groove of "Bedazzled Fingernails" had fans entranced - definite live classics in the making.  The band did unveil two new songs from their forthcoming album.  The briskly paced "Chimes at Midnight," sounding a bit like The Hunter's "Spectrelight," caught the room off-guard while the primordial chug and lofty chorus of new single "High Road" had everyone pumping fists and singing along in unison.

Mastodon (Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders)

Though Mastodon criminally omitted their best-loved anthem, "Blood and Thunder," and Hinds had to re-tune his six string mid-song on a few separate occasions, shooting dagger eyes at his guitar-tech each time, their set was predictably fantastic.  The band concluded with the ethereal calm of "The Sparrow," with phenomenal octopus-armed drummer Brann Dailor on clean vocals.  As the evening's last notes echoed into oblivion, Dailor came out from behind his kit to thank the audience:  "We hope you enjoyed these songs. We're going to put out a new album next month.  Then we're going to come back and play those songs for you."

I'll be there.

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