Mastodon (Live Review – O2 Academy Brixton, January 27 2019)
Some records demand that you crank them up to such ridiculous extremes that your neighbours are practically guaranteed to come round and try to fight you – and Mastodon’s entire back catalogue fits into that volume-dependent category. Since my neighbours are actually pretty nice people, but also sadly fail to appreciate sludgy prog, I’ve not been inclined to inflict the likes of Blood Mountain, Crack the Skye, and Emperor of Sand upon them. For that reason, Mastodon’s main appeal for me up to this point has been based on professional curiosity, rather than full-on adoration and obsession.
Consistently increasing popularity, Grammy nods, and hours of neuron-frying music aside, Mastodon’s reputation has largely been built upon their live shows. Given that music venues such as Brixton Academy allow bands to perform at volume levels that would get you arrested if you tried to achieve them at home, there’s no better way to experience Mastodon the way they really should be, in their natural environment. Headphones just aren’t enough, and neither are conventional speakers. Give Mastodon a massive stage and a monolithic PA system, and you’re all set.
Standing on Brixton Academy’s famously sloping floor, surrounded by a sea of hardcore fans who’ve paid serious money to get through the doors, and watching a certain collection of headlining musicians storm through a (pun intended) mammoth setlist while being backed up by a vertically-split video screen and perfectly structured light show is the kind of experience every serious music fan dreams about – and Mastodon delivered the above with all the power and force you’d expect. That setlist, by the way, ran to no fewer than 20 songs – you can read the whole thing at Setlist.fm here – and took in a slew of fan favourites after opening with Iron Tusk’s iconic drum barrage. Personal highlights included the labyrinthine Sleeping Giant; Precious Stones; Megalodon; Spectrelight; and Aqua Dementia, the latter of which always reminds me of Mastodon-obsessed up-and-comers Black Peaks.
Top the whole thing off with seven songs featuring Scott Kelly of Neurosis (including the aforementioned Spectrelight, Aqua Dementia, and rapturously received closer Blood and Thunder), and just…bloody hell. Since this show finished, I’ve begun properly digging into Mastodon’s back catalogue – and started wondering whether or not I can get my neighbours into them. If I can’t, I’ll just have to move to the middle of nowhere and invest in a festival-grade sound system.
LTK RATING: 10/10
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