“I think my face is melting.”
So said the guy next to me last Friday at Philly’s Theatre of the Living Arts during Mastodon’s bone-rattling set. Over the course of 90 minutes, the Atlanta quartet proved why they are one of today’s best metal bands, delving into their entire catalog to a sold-out crowd.
Mastodon has become that rare metal band that has successfully crossed over to earn non-metal fans and critical acclaim from publications that wouldn’t go near their sonic peers. Live, though, the crowd at TLA clearly didn’t hop on the bandwagon with the band’s latest Crack the Skye, shouting out requests from past albums and donning the standard metalhead gear.
With a keyboardist in tow, the group ripped through Skye in its entirety, using the album as a springboard to launch into extended instrumental passages conjuring up images of Master of Puppets-era Metallica. Guitarist/Vocalist/Missing Link Brent Hinds and bassist/eternal rock star Troy Sanders were lessons in contradiction. Utilizing, in part, the woefully underused Flying V, Hinds stayed mainly in place onstage, demolishing the eardrums of the first few rows (and beyond) with blistering solos. Sanders, for his part, assumed the role of Rock Star, getting on his knees in mock prayer near the speaker and traipsing around the entire stage in Jaggerian proportions.
After going through Skye, the band took a brief pause before giving another 40 minutes of their catalog, highlighted by an extended version of “the Wolf is Loose” off 2006’s Blood Mountain. Like any good metal band, the music spoke for itself. Other than a quick “Thank you” before departing for good, there was no on-stage banter. But hell, that would’ve only taken away from a band that has clouded itself in fear and mystery. A video screen in the background displaying random religious, cosmic and cinematic images seemed to deter and distract from the sonic punishing onstage, but that’s more quibbling than anything else. At Theatre of the Living Arts, the lucky crowd got to see a band ten years and four albums in the making finally hit their stride and earn the wider acclaim they’ve deserved for so long.