Mastodon at First Avenue, 5/7/14

with Gojira and Kvelertak
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The mighty Mastodon rampaged through First Avenue last night with France''s Gojira and Norway's Kvelertak, rounding out a massive evening of metal that left the room sweaty, bruised, and euphoric.

See also:
Slideshow: Mastodon slaughter First Avenue

Flanked by a quad of Orange stacks, Kvelertak's lead singer Erlend Hjelvik came to the stage with a stuffed owl on his head as the rest of the six-piece took their instruments. Hjelvik had a Danzig-esque look and intensity to him, and he belted some impressive black metal vocals over the band's power rock stylings making for an immense sonic combination. A classic rock core cut with blastbeats and metal screeches seemed to get through to everyone in the crowd, who nodded along with every stomp with an occasional fist pump interspersed. Closing on an epic that took up a good chunk of their long set, Kvelertak proved a fitting opener for what was to be a wide-ranging bill.
Gojira brought an appropriate sense of drama to their melodic death metal set, taking stage to a pre-recorded guitar drone that turned into the band's pummeling opener. Their signature double-kick triplets, chugging open notes, and expertly timed guitar squeals were in full force throughout the powerful set, which agitated the crowded mosh pit. A few in the front row brought along tiny inflatable whales, presumably a reference to the band's lyrical references to protecting marine life and other environmental concerns.

Weaving between unrelenting intensity and harmonic resolution, Gojira took the audience a number of different directions, squeezing thrash grooves into drawn-out measures and combining highly technical playing with straight-ahead structures. Often signing off songs with a "Merci Beaucoup" before throttling into the next, there was an earnestness behind the brutality of the playing that shone through and captured the attentive crowd. 
The headliners were introduced by the sounds of heavy winds and crashing waves, which could only mean they were starting with the nautical epic "Hearts Alive", the capper of the classic Moby Dick-themed Leviathan. Other than only touching "Crusher Destroyer" from Remission (as soon as that Tyrannosaur growl played through the speakers the older fans were gearing up their elbows for the ensuing monster riff), Mastodon split the set fairly evenly between records.
The set was relentless, barely allowing for the pit to die down as the band blasted through a bevy of big riffs and masterfully executed drum fills. The stage energy was tight in terms of the complicated parts, but there was a looseness in the member's movements that complimented the tricky time signatures and meandering song structures. Theirs is easily one of the best live shows in metal today.
The fans ate every song up, sometimes with well-timed explosions of circling up (for instance, the unyielding middle section, preceded by a twangy solo that saw their Atlanta roots bleed through slightly, of "Megalodon," that saw the pit at one of many insane highs), sometimes singing along with beaming faces of joy. The sold out crowd was ecstatic throughout the set, whether they were moshing or not.

When Brann Dailor came from behind his kit to the front of the stage after the final song to toss the audience drumsticks, he reminisced about their first Minneapolis show 14 years ago in the Entry. "Were any of you there?" he asked. "Of course not, nobody was there." He thanked everyone and said that he loved Minneapolis and it will always be one of the band's favorite places to play. It's no wonder: the people were exceptionally receptive, energetic, and were having a great time from beginning to end.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I was obsessed with Mastodon's original trilogy of albums (Remission, Leviathan, and Blood Mountain) but since Crack The Skye their records have done less for me. But even material I'm less enthused about sounded great live.

The Crowd: A mix of metal fans of all sizes and ages.

Overheard In The Crowd: On Gojira - "They're eco-friendly? Like, really? 'Save the whales [metal growl]!]

Random Notebook Dump: Bring two pens next time. I found mine in several pieces on the ground afterwards.


Hearts Alive
Crusher Destroyer
Capillarian Crest
Black Tongue
Crystal Skull
Siberian Divide
Naked Burn
Chimes At Midnight
High Road
Bedazzled Fingernails
Aqua Dementia
The Sparrow

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