Riot Fest: Mastodon

Atlanta prog-metal behemoths batter the Windy City

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Mastodon aren't afraid of a little rain. After all, they wrote an entire album based on Moby Dick, so the wet conditions actually suit them and their monolithic music. They don't play long, but for the 45 minutes they're onstage, they are the thunder to the downpour that shows no signs of letting up. It doesn't matter.

As they crash through a set focused almost entirely on songs from this year’s Once More ‘Round The Sun, they deliver what’s surely the heaviest set of the weekend. That’s saying something, given there’s only time for six songs. They start with the powerful, pulsating rage of Tread Lightly, its swirling, hypnotic force setting the intense, unrelenting tone of what follows. The new album’s title track is similarly intense and overwhelming, the ever imposing, ever threatening Brent Hinds taking charge and installing a sense of both fear and reverie into a crowd who, though drenched, look like they can’t even feel the rain anymore. Rather, they’ve become part of the storm itself, lost inside its sludgy cadences.Oblivion takes on a life of its own, too, soaring with a psychedelic delirium that’s only intensified by both the weather and the band’s assertive, aggressive performance.

And even though it seems impossible, the band step it up a gear at the end. Both The Motherload and High Road are magnificent, two resplendent songs which seem to shake the whole foundation of the earth. As the rain pours down, it feels almost Biblical, apocalyptic - as if this is the rain that will bring about the end the world. And of course that’s hyperbole, but that’s the thing with Mastodon - they make you want to believe it. As such, they turn the worst possible day on its head. The rain and cold that had ruined everything for everyone are finally given purpose, and the resulting frostbite and frozen bones are absolutely worth it.