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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.


Purchase Mastodon music and listen to samples.

Visit the official site for Mastodon

Cult of Luna

Purchase Cult of Luna music and listen to samples.

Visit the official site for Cult of Luna

Death By Stereo

Purchase Death By Stereo's music and listen to samples.

Visit the official site for Death By Stereo

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