MANHATTAN, NY—2014 appears to be a busy year for Mastodon. Not only do they welcome their latest full-length, Once More ‘Round The Sun, but they also have a full year of touring. In May, they decided to hit the road with their friends in Gojira and Kvelertak before promoting their new album. This was an event I was excited for since it was announced. Mastodon have become one of my favorite bands as of late, and it was the first time I had the opportunity to catch them live. There was a steady line of fans waiting on line to get in as I hung out near the merch booth.
The crowd continued to roll in as Kvelertak took the stage and kicked the show into gear. The first track they played was “Åpenbaring,” the opener to last year’s Meir. These Norwegian metallers continued playing off of their sophomore effort, with the next cut “Spring Fra Livet.” They really caught the attention of the audience, as everyone made their way toward the stage. One of the band’s most popular songs, “Bruane Brenn,” did a great job showing new fans their unique blend of punk and black metal. They closed off their set with three from their self-titled album. The audience was cheering and yelling for more. Unfortunately, the short set is necessary in order to make room for the remaining two acts.
I couldn’t imagine a more fitting time for Gojira to play live in New York City than the day before Godzilla was released in theaters. Gojira have been making a name for themselves in the live circuit for quite some time. They came out on stage and immediately caught the audience’s attention with the crushing riffs of “To Sirius.” They played a few more off of From Mars To Sirius, including “Heaviest Matter Of The Universe,” “Backbone,” and “Flying Whales.” A look from the third level of the venue provided an incredible view of the circle pit and those moshing down below. One of my personal favorites that night was “Le Enfant Sauvage.” As a fan, it is always exciting to find that a song can sound the same, even better than the original studio recording. For Gojira, nothing is lost in translation from studio to live performance.
Two bands down, one to go, and the night was still young. Fans took this time to head to the bathroom, grab another drink, and those in the pit found their way to the nearest water cooler. I chatted with a couple of fans who happened to be seeing Kvelertak for the fourth time, Gojira for the second, and Mastodon for the third. The energy was electric as fans clapped and cheered, waiting for the band to hit the stage. The set construction itself was brilliant, as Mastodon constantly switched things up with heavy and melodic, as well as old and new. Because the new album hadn’t been released yet, Blood Mountain, Leviathan, and The Hunter were all well-represented with four songs making it into the setlist each. They went as far back as playing 2002’s “Crusher Destroyer” off of Remission.
The most exciting moments of the night was of course hearing the two new singles, “Chimes At Midnight” and “The High Road.” This was the first chance for a lot of these fans to hear what the new album sounded like. Up until that point, only “The High Road” was available to stream online. It was also very impressive to hear Brann Dailor nail both the vocals and his drum parts throughout the chorus. Although these songs were new to the catalog, they still sounded like the Mastodon those in the crowd knew and loved. One of the highlights for me was getting a chance to hear some of the songs off of Crack The Skye. The crowd surfing began early on in the performance, just seconds after the guitar picking from “Divinations” broke out. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds commanded the audience the entire night, and Brent’s solos really stole the show for me. The solo on “Oblivion” is one of Hinds’ best and seeing it performed live was incredible.
Another one of my favorites, “The Sparrow,” a track that has always reminded me somewhat of Meddle-era Pink Floyd, closed out the night as the final number. This was an important show for the New York/New Jersey metal community. Fans were drinking, singing, talking and moshing throughout the entire night. They were just happy to have attended a show with three metal bands that have been defining the genre. The mood was light, and the music was heavy.