Mastodon: flawless, bang-head rock conceptions 

A proper live review of Mastodon and company at the Music Farm

Mastodon w/ Valient Thorr, Between the Buried and Me
Music Farm
April 16

Headbangers of all ages crowded the floor of the Music Farm for a night of metal and mosh pitting. Prog-metal royalty, Mastodon is still riding high on 2009's Crack the Skye. Their show was an especially high-energy set that kicked off a nationwide summer tour. North Carolina acts Valient Thorr and Between the Buried and Me opened Mastodon.

Mastodon's sizable East Coast fan base were all tatted up, sporting ratty black T-shirts with washed out logos of bands like Metallica, Opeth, Tool, and the my personal favorite, Goatwhore. Bathed in blood-red light, the crowd waited while Between the Buried and Me hammered out the mix with a lengthy soundcheck. Soon enough, we were, once again, ready to rock.

Valient Thorr is a throwback trash-metal band, leather vested, long haired, and still making Flying V guitars look cool. The energy was like a circus ride — loud, fast, and delightfully treacherous. Shirtless frontman Valient himself was cast as a sort of Norse God reincarnate, a harbinger of rock, and, more than likely, a party. "I want to live forever," he proclaimed, "but rock longer." The crowd's reaction was favorable. The band pumped out a quick set, featuring mostly songs from 2008's Immortalizer.

Between the Buried and Me is a nu-metal hybrid, combining eerie vocal harmonies with vein-popping growls. Lead vocalist Tommy Rogers has a scream that sounds like the gates of hell are creaking open. It's a small miracle he can yell like that several nights a week. Slow churns warp into thunderstorms of double bass and heavy delay. Best of all, BTBM possess technical chops that radio rock comes nowhere near. And, while many were clearly there to see the N.C. rockers, there's no doubt they made a few fans that evening.

The mosh-ready packed house waited anxiously for Mastodon to take the stage. Techs wheeled away half-stacks and drum kits. Guitars were traded out and tuned. Everything had to be perfect. Chants of "Mas-to-don!" spread throughout the crowd, while raised hands symbolized a desire for continued rock. Many, with understandably sore elbows, saved their energy, taking to the bar or going on a smoke break.

Mastodon's fantastic Crack the Skye is dense concept album. Like chapters of a book, the tracks, if played out of order, would make little sense. The band ripped through the album, perfected in memory, flawless in execution. With math-rock chops, unexpected changes in time signatures, Brann Dailor's precise drumming, and shared vocal responsibilities, Mastodon rocked, hard. Highlights were Crack the Skye standouts "Divinations" and the four-part epic "The Czar."

The mosh pit was a human tornado that spun around, collecting bodies as it expanded and collapsed. It was hard to look away from the cinematic backdrop, a screen with visionary art related to Crack the Skye's themes (astral travel and such). Most tried not to stare, lest they be caught off guard, with a spin kick to the ribs.

It's hard for me to sum up this show in words, so I'll borrow a line from a sweat drenched, satisfied fan: "Faces were just melted."


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