This holiday weekend, newsrooms around the country were all abuzz with stories of Black Friday madness. Yet all the doorbusters and midnight openings in the world couldn’t generate the energy that pulsed through Terminal 5 on November 19 when prog-sludge giants Mastodon took the stage. The ground rumbled as fans anticipated the Atlanta quartet’s arrival, rushing toward the stage with anticipatory fervor. Now and again, the crowd—a hodgepodge of metalheads, hipsters and bikers— would swell forward or shift around lazily beneath clouds of smoke.
When the band finally did take the stage, to a thunderous, hissing sea of feedback, it was clear by the deafening response that metal royalty had arrived. The snaky notes of “Dry Bone Valley” leaped forth from the speakers with fury, and for the next two hours, Mastodon unleashed its sludgy metal on the crowd. There was no lengthy banter or watered-down noodling here: Aside from a few “thank you”s, the group remained intently focused on the music.
Although the setlist drew heavily from Mastodon’s latest release, this fall’s The Hunter, every album was accounted. There was the creeping “Ghost Of Karelia,” from Crack The Skye, Remission‘s thrashing, furious classic “March Of The Fire Ants” and, of course, that golden standard of ’00s metal, “Blood And Thunder.” Guitarist Brent Hinds wielded his guitar like the hammer of Thor, delivering each signature riff with precision and restrained rage. Now and again, he calmly lifted his hand and spun it counter-clockwise, stirring up a hurricane-sized circle pit out on the floor.
For Mastodon—one of the, if not the, most important metal acts in the business today, November 19’s show at Terminal 5 was a victory lap: the apotheosis of four friendly metalheads from Atlanta into true gods in the genre. “My ears are ringing,” one attendee exclaimed on his way outside. It wasn’t a complaint—to experience hearing loss at the hands of Mastodon is to acquire some of the best musical scars in the world.