Mastodon's Birmingham, AL, tour-opener Friday night at the 450-person capacity WorkPlay Theater was packed with frontman Brent Hinds' hometown friends, who slugged beers, moshed, and threw their devilhorns to the sky from start to finish.
It was a big party in a small house -- and the local metalheads put on quite a show.
After opening sets from Kylesa and Intronaut, Mastodon took the stage and opened with "Oblivion," the first track off new album Crack the Skye. The quartet didn't stop until they had played the entire record, including 13-minute epic "The Last Baron."
A video screen behind the group showed psychedelic drawings reminiscent of Skye's album art, and managed to enhance the performance without ever distracting from the music.
The seamless interplay between guitarists Hinds and Bill Kelliher on "The Czar" was particular striking, as was the metronome-precise rhythm duo of drummer Brann Dailor and bassist Troy Sanders on "Divinations," the band's new single, during which Hinds' Ozzy-like roar told the tale of mystic spirits trapped deep in space.
After a short break, the band returned for an hour-plus set that drew heavily from 2006's Blood Mountain, and included enough cuts from 2004's Leviathan (and one track from 2002's Remission) that it could be called a Mastodon sampler.
If Mastodon's Birmingham gig is any indication, their brutal, manic delivery will cement the band's place at the top of the metal hierarchy, and hopefully challenge others in the genre to meet their standards.
Crack the Skye set:
"Ghost of Karelia"
"Crack The Skye"
"The Last Baron"
"Colony of Birchmen"
"The Wolf Is Loose"
"March of the Fire Ants"
Guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds / Photo by Wes Frazer
Sanders (left) and guitarist Bill Kelliher / Photo by Wes Frazer