REVIEW: Mastodon – Ulster Hall, Belfast

DSC_3274Tread Lightly is superbly ironic; a bull called Buttercup. Straight from the blocks and Mastodon are instantly commanding of the beast they brought. You’d be a fool to expect less.

The psychedelic artwork of the salient album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, colours a huge backdrop that hangs in garish juxtaposition to the chandeliers and ornate balustrade of Belfast’s Ulster Hall. It’s oddly fitting. A modest lightshow provides the aesthetic companion to their musical program, tonight’s indisputable focus.

The set is well scripted and unfussy. Each song introduces itself and spills effortlessly into the next. Troy Sanders is a pleasure to watch and has free reign of an otherwise languid stage. However, for a band whose movements are scant and who say so little, their bond is strong with an attentive and obedient crowd.

Mastodon glide through quick shifts of tempo and metre with immaculate proficiency, landing deep in the pocket of every groove. It’s a multifarious show that abstains from stagnation as vocal duties traverse and as they skip from melodious, big-chorus gems such as ‘The Motherload’ to the boiling, perpetual mayhem of ‘Megalodon’ and ‘Bladecatcher’.  This ability to diversify within a rather strict architecture demonstrates the expertise of their craftsmanship, introducing new elements whilst retaining the core sensibilities that founded their popularity. In many ways, drummer Brann Dailor is the star of the show as he metronomically clatters through each song with a pure exhibition of technical finesse.

Hinds’ vocals are frequently given to submersion in the mix, but everything else translates with a clarity that does well to serve such explosive and demanding music. A heavy metal masterclass. Audience energy grows as the night runs. The air is thick with it. There’s no doubting the prowess of this band.

Crack the Skye’s ‘The Czar’ acts as a riff-charged and melodic conclusion. However, in giving the Mastodon treatment to Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’, they bring events to a close in a way that I suspect is intended mostly for their own enjoyment. There’s a general sense of awe as the house lights illuminate an audience with hunger barely sated by the ninety-minute show. The Mastodon machine is slick and embarks now upon a summer of festivals with a formidable weapon so finely tuned that it’s positively set to stun. Calum McGeown, GiggingNI.com