Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
What to expect at a Mastodon show:
Lots and lots of sophisticated lasers.
Lots and lots of sophisticated lighting.
Lots and lots of heavy duty PA.
Lots and lots of sophisticated and know your instruments musicianship.
| could go on and on about this- equally both with Mastodon and Opeth, who are co- headlining this North American Tour.
However, with so much to say in a concise review- your head spins in reviewing notes from the show, and to state what's relevant without sounding like a tech nerd or a gear nerd.
But how can you not veer into that territory when witnessing firsthand yet again a schooling on bravado musicianship from both bands, let alone embracing sophisticated musicianship that leaves you in awe, not wanting either band to leave the stage so soon, to play on through the night until the whole Riviera Theatre implodes.
Seriously- it was that kind of show.
And in the back of your head, you kinda of already knew this weeks ago, and even going through the doors of the venue prior to the first note.
Just look at the opening number from Mastodon to give you an idea of shock and awe: "Pain With an Anchor", from their latest release- "Hushed and Grim".
A song sung with such heartfelt content from drummer Brann Dailor, and shared vocal duties from bassist Troy Sanders.
You know it's heavy lyric wise, emphasizing the pain of what Mastodon has experienced the past couple years, with the passing of their former manager Nick John.
If you're in the know- that was tough.
Hard to fathom, let alone figure out the "Where do we go from here"- and how to proceed- let alone the timing of it all, and defining grief.
All of this needs to be said clearly, in my opinion, simply because when coming out the other end, and carrying all that wait, their songs, their catalog take on greater meaning- greater depth.
So Mastodon does proceed, to the delight and gratefulness of their fans, with a swagger and a fight for the ages, and with such honesty and no bullshit- no covering up of anything.
And so off we go into "Crystal Skull", into "Megalodon", into "The Crux".
This should give you an idea of musical punishment of the good kind- relentless and uncompromising, 14 songs blistering in total, ending with your ears and cranium burning with "Blood and Thunder".
And even though their setlist was heavy on "Hushed and Grim"- some six songs total- the album is equal and then some to their mighty back catalog, worthy of display.
And who am I to judge?
Overall- they're ready to go with a rejuvenated mission of performance and embracing touring, which they clearly still hold so dear.
So thankful for them, and coming out the other end with their spirit still intact.
I can say the same for Opeth as well- another stellar band who's had their fair share of personnel changes, and still massively influential and admired by their peers, let alone their fans who've stuck with them form the days of the mid nineties.
Anchored solidly by longtime member Mikael Arkefeldt, and Fredrik Arkesson, the two guitar attack of blistering musicianship leaves you always trying to figure out the what- the fucks, and comprehension after the fact.
And they make it look so easy, which leaves you with even more questions- just how nonchalant they are, or at least appear to be, time and time again.
Opening with "Hjartat vet van handen gor", a song with blistering twists and staggering turns, with acoustic interludes to catch a breath, and then the unleashing of the hounds for the ever so mighty "Ghost of Perdition", equal in might to dark metal / black metal, and yet heavy on acoustic interludes equal in scope for stellar singing / songwriting.
Not a weak link in the bunch, some eight songs in total, ending with the heavy hitter "Deliverance".
Oh how I've missed these guys, and what they bring to table music wise, time and time again.
So to come full circle- here you have two bands that share a common DNA and gene pool of upper echelon technically un-categorizable musicianship and songwriting- true to their roots, true to their influences.
Have to say, even with openers Khemmis, from Denver Colorado, all three bands were punctuated with a display of might and a sonic onslaught of epic proportions.
Try saying that fast three times....
Yeah- it was THAT kind of show.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago