Mastodon, live in Bristol

Support: Big Business, Krokodil

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Heavy on record, pulverising live, Krokodil [7] have barely been around five minutes but seem to have the world at their feet. A seamless fit for those yearning for some of the headliner’s riffier moments, Daniel P Carter leads the bearded guitar trio – minus Allesandro Ventruella, who (allegedly) is now in a certain band from Iowa – through the dense, deafening wall of sound concocted by the thrilling punch of Shatter and groove of Reptilia Familiar.

Sikth’s rhythm section are as flawless as you’d expect, however, vocalist Simon Wright steal the show with his bellows and screams echoing around the venue and rise above the music’s formidable volume. But what Krokodil achieve with six members, LA duo Big Business [8] almost reach with two. With the bass cranked up to maximum and drummer Coady Willis doing his best to frantically cram as many fills and rhythms into the set as possible, The Melvins rhythm section manage to imbue their sludgy assault with a great variety while being as catchy as hell. Bassist Jared Warren is a great exponent of some assuredly dry humour when the onstage smoke isn’t choking him, but it’s the epic closing voyage of Lonely Lyle that leaves the throng utterly captivated.

When it comes to expansive musical journeys fuelled by full-blooded riffage few, if any, can hold a candle to Mastodon [8]. Backed simply by their Once More ‘Round The Sun backdrop and a few lasers, the four ordinary-looking, unkempt members are left to lead the audience out on their own, weaving their challenging musical tapestries with the most basic tools, little fanfare and seemingly little effort. Brent Hinds, in particular, couldn’t look more relaxed if he tried. While his bandmates take on the roles of stalking the stage and engaging the crowd, albeit seldom, the guitarist might as well as be lying on the couch, providing his fingers still run up and down the fretboard in his effortless yet uniquely ingenious style.

The set admittedly leans heavily on their most recent opus, with eight of the 11 tracks of the great but perhaps not grandiose Once More ‘Round The Sun being aired, it’s interesting to see how they fare against the band’s much-lauded older material. The immersive Tread Lightly delivers with aplomb, with Brann Dailor’s drumming and melodic vocals forcing their way to the fore; the dynamic groove of Motherload saunters in on a wave of good-time vibes; and the hypnotic Chimes At Midnight holds the crowd’s collective brain function in the palm of its hands.

But as the set progresses it’s clear the newer tunes are met with a noticeable drop in energy levels, appearing to be mere buffers before the celestial intricacies of Crack The Skye’s Oblivion and Divinations, and the dizzying whirlwind of Bladecatcher. The crowd’s second wind is heralded with the twang of Black Tongue before a mesmerising Crystal Skull and appropriately gigantic Blood And Thunder cap the night off in impressive style.

Mastodon are incapable of doing bad gigs, and with a catalogue as untouchable as theirs you’re always going to be amazed and engrossed in equal measure. But for perhaps the first time in their career there’s a noticeable gap widening between old and new songs that seemed unthinkable a few years ago. It seems Mastodon have become victims of their own brilliance, having spoilt us rotten for so long we’re now feeling disappointed when a gig or album is anything less than incredible.

Adam Brennan

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.