w/ Death By Stereo, Cult
of Luna and If He Dies, He Dies
@ Intersection - Grand Rapids,
Mich. – May 5, 2005
Live Review by Mark Hensch
Taking the stage in the intimate and cozy
Intersection club, Atlanta’s metal gods (yes, for gods they are) slayed
a crowd of around 200 wholly devout, the kind of people who come to see
Mastodon because they worship Mastodon. Armed with an eclectic support
slot or two in the local hardcore act If He Dies, He Dies, metal-loving
punks Death by Stereo, and organic art-metalheads Cult of Luna, Mastodon
put on a show that shows how totally far above the status quo they are.
Hailing from nearby Muskegon, If He Dies,
He Dies, played a brand of mathy hardcore that was a tad flavorless and/or
bland. The majority of the crowd had not yet arrived, and IH2D2 played
a quick yet competent set of hardcore that borrowed a little liberally
from the Converge or Botch camps. It was nothing I haven’t heard before,
and at best only decent. However, one has to respect a band that brought
an obvious A-game to a tiny crowd clamoring for later acts.
Things took an interesting twist next with
Umea, Sweden’s Cult of Luna. One of the most bipolar bands in the extreme
music field, COL is one of those bands that either inspires fervent love
or passionate hate; truly, there is no middle ground for these Swedes.
Being a longtime Neurosis and/or ISIS fan, Cult of Luna’s open-ended, airy,
and oddly crushing riffage sounds like the bastard child of Radiohead and
a doom metal act. Horrifically nihilistic, the band’s huge and uncompromising
slow-jams were few and far between, only three or four tunes getting played.
The sextet took the stage in a haze of subtle blue light and proceeded
to bust out the slow-burning “Echoes.” In one of the coolest things I’ve
seen in quite some time, vocalist Klas Rydberg refused to even show up
on stage until his first vocals a whole five minutes of riffing later.
Taking the mic stand, Klas stumbled and slurred around in an freakish marionette
dance of cold and metallic existentialism. His headbanging was surreal,
and later tune “Vague Illusions” ripped faces and then buried the remains
in a quietly somber fashion. At one point, the band proceeded to fash-wash
the chilled out crowd with Earth-shaking, bowel-loosening riffage. COL
then stopped entirely, dropped a delicate piano key or two, and then began
an almost in-audible 4/4 beat with two drums sticks and utter silence.
The complete serenity of this moment will probably haunt me for the entirety
of my life to come. Simply jaw-dropping.
Heavy punk act Death by Stereo took the
mic next, and the band’s mix of hardcore punk chords and melodic guitar
solos (Iron Maidenesque to be sure) were channeled through high-energy
and sadly banal, purposely vague, quasi-political rhetoric. Lines of commentary
like “Don’t believe the lies they tell you; think only for yourselves”
really don’t elaborate on much and seem to fuel the bland, non-offensive,
and literally unaware punks of today. On a bill more experimental that
common-place, Stereo’s tunes like say “Desperation Train” or perhaps “Plague”
seem simplistic, uninspired, and boring.
Regardless of who came first, none of them
can hold a candle to Mastodon. Blowing the roof off before they’d even
begun to play, my jaw hit the ground as Mastodon busted out the COMPLETE,
UN-CONDENSED version of “Hearts Alive” from Leviathan. Yep, you read that
right, all of “Hearts freaking Alive.” The one and only Mastodon pounded
out tune after tune, seeing the polite psych interlude “Joseph Merrick,”
the romp-and-stomp of “Where Strides the Behemoth,” old-school faves like
“Shadows that Move” and even the elephantine riffage that is “The March
of the Fire Ants.” Let’s not forget “I am Ahab,” the subdued grace of “Sea
Beast,” or the awesome gurgling guitars of Brent Hines on “Island.” Oh,
and the southern boogie of “Megalodon” or the sinister predatory “Iron
Tusk” translate perfectly live.
Mastodon truly is an amazing act, and their
gigantic set of metal stood above pretty much any act I’ve seen in the
last year or two, except perhaps Himsa or Shadows Fall. Energetic, epic,
and amazingly calm, the men of Mastodon haven’t let stardom go to their
heads. I chatted with drummer Brann Dailor following the show, and Brann
told me of his drum lessons, the band’s deal with Warner Bros., and the
Fear Factory tour I missed them on last time. All the guys hung around
signing autographs (same for COL) and it shows that a grassroots act as
genius as the mighty Mastodon can be every bit as vital while retaining
its hard-fought individuality. If you haven’t seen Mastodon yet, do it
now; one can never guess how long Gods choose to walk the Earth.
Mastodon music and listen to samples.
the official site for Mastodon
Cult of Luna
Cult of Luna music and listen to samples.
the official site for Cult of Luna
Death By Stereo
Death By Stereo's music and listen to samples.
the official site for Death By Stereo