Mastodon @ The Soroyan Theatre, Fresno CA 10/23/15

FYI this is primarily a Mastodon review. I’ve been wanting to see the Grammy nominated Mastodon since 2010 or 2011. At that time they were doing a co-headlining tour with Opeth, another one of my favorite acts. When I found out that Priest’s Redeemer of Souls tour would make a surprising stop in Fresno, I practically jumped out of my chair. Popular metal and hard rock acts that perform in the Central Valley are becoming fewer and fewer, so I couldn’t miss Mastodon, even if they were allotted a mere opening set. Although Judas Priest was the headliner this tour I was more stoked to see Mastodon. The Mastodon sound is muscular, complex and impressively diverse. It’s so much more than typical hard rock or metal. It’s chest pumping, fist raising hard rock for sure. But it’s also challenging and exotic, much like the music of Judas Priest (not counting “Turbo Lover” of course). At times it has the mid-tempo, brooding stomp of groove metal like Pantera and Corrosion of Conformity. Other times it has the southern inspired sludge metal like Eyehategod and Down. Then add the virtuosity of prog rock like Dream Theater and Opeth, but without the keyboards. They primarily use harsh, death metal inspired vocals but there’s also the compelling clean vocals on the more uplifting sections of their songs. Additionally, Mastodon possesses a mysticism to their work which can be found in their album artwork, song titles and music, something that’s becoming rarer in regards to a group’s culture and identity.

Mastodon left an enormous impression on the Fresno audience. By the end of their set the capacity crowd gave a spirited and appreciative applause, many metal-heads offering a standing ovation. These guys are extraordinary players, with guitarist Brent Hinds and drummer Brann Dailor soaking up much of the limelight. Hinds is a shockingly good guitar player, playing the majority of the lead work while Bill Kelliher provided most of the rhythm parts on second guitar. Hinds is very skilled, pulling off complex solos that never veered into the ludicrous like many other shredders are guilty of doing. Each member of Mastodon provides lead vocals, with Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders providing the bulk of vocals. Hinds’ vocals were guttural and very much like grindcore and death metal vocals while Sanders shouted most of his lines without the deathy growl that Hinds would usually use. To contrast those harsh stylings, drummer Brann Dailor provided the clean, anthemic singing parts, often soaring above the thick layers of crunchy and sludgy riffs. Dailor’s drumming was crazy good. His playing style is heavy handed with a lot of cut on the snare, while flying across the toms with frequent paradiddles and fills, reminiscent of Neil Peart’s playing style…and while singing! Dailor’s strokes were so forceful that I could see him shaking out his hands in between songs, I hope he’s able to avoid tendonitis. Sanders and Dialor were very appreciative of the crowd response. Dailor stepped up to the center microphone and applauded the crowd, saying “Fres-no? More like Fres-yes!” It was a heck of a treat to finally see these guys live. I would loved to have seen the group perform “Curl of the Burl” and “Colony of Birchmen,” but I’ll take what I can get. The band was able to fit an impressive amount of songs within 60 minutes, playing a good deal of material from their new album Once More ‘Round the Sun. The highlights for me included “Tread Lightly,” “Crystal Skull,” “Blasteroid,” “High Road,” “Blood and Thunder,” and of course my new favorite, “Ember City.” I hadn’t heard “Ember City” until the show and it was cool as heck to hear. I even prefer the live versions over the studio version. The vocals on the studio version are effects laden. The live vocals are purer, and Brann Dailor sounds better without the studio effects all over his voice. This group has been criticized in the past for out of tune vocals, but I think with years of practice they’ve finally resolved that issue. Sanders’ and Dailor’s harmonies on “Ember City” were great and their voices complimented each other well. I think I’ll blast “Ember City” now. Priest’s set unfortunately didn’t possess the awesome qualities like that of the 2011 Bakersfield performance. This set was reduced by 1/3 in comparison to the Epitaph shows, with a set timing clocking in around 80 minutes. Mastodon’s set was a great consolation to this. Plus I was able to score an autographed poster!!!

  1. Tread Lightly
  2. Once More ‘Round the Sun
  3. Blasteroid
  4. The Motherload
  5. Chimes at Midnight
  6. Aqua Dementia
  7. Halloween
  8. Blade Catcher
  9. Black Tongue
  10. Ember City
  11. Crystal Skull
  12. Blood and Thunder



Posted on November 16, 2015, in Concerts: 2012 - Present, Judas Priest, Mastodon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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