Upon breaching the entry doors to any Mastodon show, fans have always had to adopt an attitude like they were preparing for battle. Mastodon crowds are well aware of being transported to netherworlds with epic struggles as a timeline and nebulae as a backdrop. They wait with a fervor to succumb to the band’s earthquake rhythms and to climb endless riff mountains in the company of sea beasts, sorcery, monsters and madness.
This time was different. There were keyboards on the stage. There was a fantastic visual presentation chock full of druids and hordes of holy men awash in a storm of color. There was the subdued fury of surprisingly melodic vocals and harmonies by lead guitarist/vocalist Brett Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders. There were songs you could attach yourself to while in a trance, floating on Brann Dailor’s epic drum runs where before you were assailed and distracted by them.
This is the tour supporting Crack the Skye–the Atlanta quartet’s fourth full- length album, their most accessible, and by far their best. This evening it was performed from start to finish, in a brilliant spectacle of thunder and elegance which capitalized on a metallic twist of prog and classic rock while never swaying from the path of familiar stout and swarthy heaviness.
Songs like “Oblivion,” “Quintessence” and “The Czar” are centerpieces of the album which tells the story of a man lost during an astral projection and found by Rasputin.The band seemed intensely focused, deep in concentrating through the intricacies of every change and time signature. No words were spoken other than lyrics, yet that did not stop the feverish crowd from funneling into an epic volcano of a mosh pit, while empires burned in front of them as the songs told their stories.
Following the track-by-track performance of Crack the Skye in its entirety, the pit spread out like a runaway virus spinning wild, infectious and doubling in size as the band stomped through favorites from Leviathan and Remission. It was a jawdropping sight from the edge of the balcony, like watching a hurricane form from space.
The crowd gathered its wits with plans for escaping the asylum, but when the band decided to close with “Mother Puncher,” they scattered again. Leaving the venue, most were exhausted and running for cover, lost in the aftermath of an overwhelming evening. Mastodon can easily assail a crowd by pulling from a stuffed bag of metal tricks which draw inspiration from a gamut of creatures and characters that had lined their first three albums. With Crack The Skye and its subsequent tour, the faithful now have been injected with some melody and a confident, even renewed sense of where metal may go from here.