Mastodon have long been Titans of the modern metal world, whether you listen to their earlier concept albums, or their two most recent outside of the series, you are going to come across some of the most forward thinking, progressive sounds in the genre. Naturally the music they play can sometimes be difficult to recreate live, so we headed to Nottingham’s Rock City to find out just how they managed it.
First on the bill however were newcomers Krokodil, boasting a lineup of Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard of Gallows, Daniel P Carter of the Radio 1 Rock Show, and Dan Foord of the recently reformed Sikth. With their name taken from a Russian, petrol based alternative to heroin, Krokodil were never going to be about rainbows and bird songs. With a set draw entirely from their only album to date, Nachash, released November 10th, tracks like ‘Dead Mans Path’ and first single ‘Shatter’ were punishing, more so than other bands thanks to their lineup of three guitarists and a bassist, while frontman Simon Wright of Liber Necris bounded about the stage, releasing a monstrous growl over the guitars.
Though the performance was timid and material unfamiliar to the already packed room, Krokodil are still very new and with a few more shows and some more material under their belts could well become a force in metal.
Second band Big Business, in contrast to Krokodil consisted of two members, a relaxed attitude, and the potential to become your new favourite band before finishing a song.
Picking from a back catalogue of fast paced, no frills, sludge metal, Big Business captured the crowd’s imagination and attention, and with a sound more reminiscent of groups with twice has many members and sounding like Royal Blood on steroids, their unique presence proved to be contagious. Tracks like ‘Chump Chance’, ‘Doomsday, Today!’, and closer ‘Lonely Lyle’ were consistent in quality and intensity, members Jared Warren and Coady Wallis blew the room away, and based on the response to the end of their set, half an hour wasn’t enough and Big Business need to come back soon.
It was clear even before doors opened however that tonight was going to be all about Mastodon. Playing their first headline shows in the UK following the release of new album ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ and a subtle change in sound, anticipation was high as to how the new material would fit in the set.
‘Tread Lightly’ and ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ ensured the crowd knew from the beginning that there was going to be little room for greatest hits sets, and that the tour was all about new material (8 of the new album tracks were in fact in the setlist). Early airings of Crack the Skye favourite ‘Oblivion’, and recent single ‘Motherload’ kept the new material to a maximum for the first part of the set, with the first pre-Crack the Skye track appearing in the form of ‘Aqua Dementia’ off Leviathan mid way through the set, after ‘High Road’, which also proved to work better live than on the album.
Later on the band’s older material became far more prominent and went a long way in showing how well the new and old fit together so seamlessly, a rare airing of ‘Bladecatcher’ resulted in much delight for the more seasoned fans, while also showing the newer listeners Mastodon’s early promise. Closing in style, ‘Megalodon’, ‘Crystal Skull’, and ‘Blood and Thunder’ brought the show to a crushing end. As has come to be expected of Mastodon, instrumentally they were as tight as the records, though the vocals were hit and miss but improved on previous performances. Troy Sanders however improves with age, his cavernous roar maturing with each album, and his performances more and more charismatic. The setlist was mostly new which came as no surprise, especially as this is the first in three tours that the band has chosen not to play their new album in full.
What was clear tonight is that Mastodon despite being 7 albums into their career are still pushing on and willing to try new ideas, never just sticking to what they know. With a stadium sized show and an enviable back catalogue, seeing them in a venue of Rock City’s size is always going to be a treat not to be missed.