If the chorus of piercing screams and sea of devil horns wasn’t enough to convince you, let me say it right now: New York City was thrilled to have Mastodon back. The Atlanta metal masters had been in the city fairly recently, playing a sold-out gig at Terminal 5 this past November, but this was a band too big to keep in a 3,000-capacity venue; it needed the couple of hundred extra spaces offered by Roseland Ballroom. Roseland’s spacious dimensions and killer lights setup made it better suited for perhaps the biggest name in modern metal music right now. “I am so excited I could shit my pants right now!” exclaimed one guy in the front row. “Me too!” chirped a companion.
And you couldn’t blame them for such sentiments: Mastodon was back for round two, and what a raucous round it was. From the opening wails of “Black Tongue” (accompanied by some adorable tongue-wagging by guitarist Brent Hinds) to the soaring peaks of “Octopus Has No Friends,” the quartet deftly wove its way through a setlist containing most of the tracks from last year’s The Hunter along with other fan favorites. An extra-flashy light setup cloaked the band in hazy neon lights, making already-epic songs like “Blasteroid” downright menacing. The extra bits of A/V magic—including a pair of glowing, flashing eyes embedded in the tapestry behind the foursome—dramatically reiterated what we all already knew: Mastodons are masters of their craft. Though the band members provided little in the way of small talk or conversation, they knew how to take a breather, metal-style: a slithering, lengthy solo by Hinds, executed with precision and to deafening response.
To choose a highlight from a set this precise and heavy-hitting would be like trying to catch Moby Dick with a fishing pole: foolish and impossible. But while we’re on the subject of our favorite white whale, last night’s incarnation of “Blood And Thunder” made the Leviathan version sound downright tame. The already-knife-sharp riffs were even more piercing here, and the rabid chants of “White Whale/Holy Grail” took on the sort of murderous fervor typically reserved for black metal documentaries. And even though there was nary a corpse-painted concertgoer in sight, the crowd was definitely in the spirit of Mastodon’s signature melter, creating a churning mosh pit that let loose blood-curdling screams of its own.
After ending with “The Sparrow”—a slow-burner from The Hunter—singer Troy Sanders and his bandmates took a moment to modestly thank the audience for its continued support. “We’ll see you very soon,” they promised. We’ll hold you to your word, dudes.