ARGUABLY modern metal’s most revered band, the return of Atlanta outfit Mastodon felt like Christmas coming a month early for the region’s beardy longhairs.
Playing before a packed Tuesday night crowd at Newcastle’s O2 Academy, the foursome’s thunderous ongoing ascent was perhaps reflected by the tone of their performance, which was one of utter relentlessness.
It was a far cry from their previous visit four years ago, when they had the audacity to air the prog-flavoured Crack The Skye in its entirety.
This time that record was marginalised, with focus instead placed on the more full-throttle reaches of their catalogue; a shift which brought a marked increase in both punch and excitement.
Released to predictable acclaim back in June, sixth LP Once More ‘Round the Sun fitted this mode to a tee, though instead of standing out, its cuts bled into a wider jet-fueled maelstrom, with barely a dull moment nor a pause for breath.
In fact, it wasn’t until more than an hour in that the group stopped to communicate with their audience - a fact born not from disregard, but rather their own thunderous momentum.
Their token triple-vocal attack does tend get lost among the storm, but this is of little consequence - not when it’s being drowned out by the formidable arsenal of riffs gathered throughout their 14-year existence.
This primal, superlative force was epitomised by the raw thrash of Seabeast and the earth-shaking Blood and Thunder (both from 2004’s fan-favourite Leviathan), but the deal was sealed long before those numbers made their late entrance.
Indeed, fresh additions such as Halloween and The Motherload made a similarly potent impact, with the latter in particular already establishing itself among their finest moments.
For what it’s worth, opening supergroup Krokodil also had their moments, although they were comprehensively outclassed by sludge mainstays Big Business who followed them onstage.
An uncompromising source of volume and energy, the drum and bass duo were an inspired booking as main support, with phenomenal sticksman Coady Willis even giving Mastodon’s Brann Dailor a run for his money.
Dailor and his bandmates, however, put paid to any prospects of an upstaging, and while their calibre as musicians has never been in question, it now appears they’ve also learned the ropes of putting on a great show.
Certainly, tonight’s performance justified every inch of their hefty billing. On this form, no one else even comes close.