There are certain bands that are a must see live. The albums they create have the ability to transcend reality and their live shows take that reality even further. Mastodon have been doing just that for me since I saw them back when their album Remission was released. Every album they upped their game and pushed the limits of what they can do in the studio and in a live setting. May 2nd was no different. Mastodon wasted no time during their 90 minute set to deliver one of the strongest live shows they’ve done since Crack The Skye was released. Their 17 song set was highlighted by the inclusion of songs such as opening with “Hearts Alive,” “Crusher Destroyer,” “Naked Burn,” “Aqua Dementia,” and “Oblivion.” The two new songs they played “Chimes At Midnight” and “High Road” sounded great, especially “High Road.” Instead of banter between songs, they let the music do the talking. The light show they has while they played had a bit of a psychedelic vibe to it and it matched perfectly with their set. Vocally, their past shows have been underwhelming, but it seems that with the proper vocal training, they have managed to pull off these songs in a much better light.
Also playing this fine evening was Gojira. Their loud bombastic assault has been talked about for years. As a live band they have the ability to steal the show away from the headliner (recently on their tour with Slayer, they did just that). Gojira’s set went by fast but was a great and fulfilled all that the mid opener slot is meant to be. Certain tracks played like “The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe,” “Oroborus,” and “Vacuity” got the crowd banging their heads. Their sound from album to live sounds identical, and all in a good way. Opening the entire show was Kvelertak. They are the perfect opening energy type band. Armed with three guitars and vocals only sung in their native Norwegian language, it’s hard not to be captivated by them.
Mastodon truly owned the night. The diverse set list that was played really balanced out a great evening. Their new album Once More Round The Sun comes out in June. Club Nokia on the other hand isn’t the greatest place to see a show. The layout and design puts a bit of a hinderance on viewing and listening. But I refused to let that get in the way of enjoying the show.
The ever loud and mighty High on Fire rolled into Los Angeles on a brisk Thursday night. The almost packed house in unison got their heads banging when shirtless Matt Pike and company took the stage. The clouds of smoke from the crowd wafted through the El Rey as High On Fire pummeled the audience with their blaring wall of distortion. The set list spanned their albums The Art of Self Defense to their most recent De Vermis Mysteriis. In particular, Cometh Down Hessian (off Blessed Black Wings) got the crowd in frenzy as the floor opened up and the pit took shape. Matt Pike with all his towering presence managed to smile and grin at the crowd and seemed to really be having a great time on stage. Each song rang heavy and the other members of the band were really dialed in on. There was no banter just shouting of the next song title and a flood of feedback in between songs helping to guide the next one.. All in all, anyone in the audience could tell, High On Fire was firing on all cylinders that evening.
Also on the tour was Kvelertak, the much buzzed about Norwegian rock band. Their most recent album “Meir” (produced by Converges Kurl Ballou) has been getting lots of acclaim as well as their energetic live show. Coming to the stage to a roar of an audience, the singer draped in a taxidermy owl atop of his head, took over the crowd and worked them into frenzy. The 3-guitar attack helped to propel the bands melodic sensibilities. There was no lull in the momentum of Kvelertak’s set, with a very interesting use of jazz hands. The band had all the chops to steal the show away from High on Fire, which they did.
Opening the show was Virginia’s Windhand. Riding high on their 2013 album “Soma,” the bands doom laden sound fit very well for the soundtrack to the evening but did not have the chops to open for either band. The way their sound was mixed was very bass heavy and the vocals so low it seemed that the singer was just mouthing the words. The roar of their distortion over powered every ounce of the El Rey. Not to take away from the band, who put out a great album, lack any real presence on stage and their sound just doesn’t translate well live. If I hadn’t heard the band before the evening, I would’ve been even more disappointed.
Having seen High on Fire multiple times over the years, the show itself was one of their best. Matt Pike really seemed to be back in the groove of playing and with a reenergized sense of self. There is one thing that tends to happen at a mostly “doom” genre show, and that is every song tends to bleed into the other.