"Okay, so there's this crystal skull, right? And when you put it on, you become a monomaniacal wizard who's trying hunt a giant immortal white whale. Only you're not really a wizard-- your a walking fire-breathing ant creature trying to kill God. Oh, and it's a musical."
If someone were to pitch Mastodon's career as a feature film, it might go something like that. Keeping track of exactly what concept (if such a wild ketchup of disparate ideas can be called such a thing) is a dizzying, surreal enterprise that will test the patience of even the highest level fighter-mage. But whether or not you give a damn about the narrative they weave, Mastodon has emerged as one of the great thrash acts of the 21st century.
Mastodon, performing "Mother Puncher" in 2005.
They weren't always a mental concept act. Their 2002 Remission was an exercise in fat chords, cranked up beats, a sort of distillation of heavy metal to its most bitter extract. The zaniness began with Leviathan, a winking re-telling of Moby Dick, and spun only further and further off the associative rails with Blood Mountain and, most recently, their 2009 release Crack the Skye.
The fact that Mastodon calls Crack the Skye their most focused record is only a testament to the suggestion that, in their alternate bizarro universe, this stuff actually makes sense. A paraplegic navigates Hawking's wormholes to hob nob with Rasputin?
Okay, fine, we'll accept it-- but only because the music is so loud, complex, and imposing, we'd never dare stop listening long enough to raise a peep. Their stop at First Avenue on their tour for 2006's Blood Mountain was good-not-great material, as Mastodon falls prey to an unfortunate trapping of their own complexity-- the music is technically advanced that the band members don't really have the time or spare awareness to do much besides stand still and hit their notes.
That said, it's the kind of show that means plenty to first and second generation heshers alike-- either you'll be harkening to the days of seeing Metallica rip through Master of Puppets in 1986 as an 18 year old in sleeveless denim, or you'll be reeling from the first-time asphyxia of a metal show that doesn't happen all too often. Either way, wallets out, people.