Named after an extinct mammoth-like species, incorporating bizarre psychedelic imagery to create a pretty unique visual aesthetic, bringing Eastern European influences into their sound and tackling such concepts as the story of Moby Dick and metaphysical Russian cults trying to resurrect Rasputin, prog metal giants Mastodon have always been full of idiosyncrasies.
Though, as is often the case within the over-saturated world of heavy metal, those bands that stray from the beaten path regularly prove to be amongst the best. They certainly seem to have struck a chord with the northeast at the very least, playing to a packed out room at Northumbria SU.
Stoner metal four-piece Red Fang were up fist; though wielding none of the prog sensibilities or theatricality of Mastodon their relentless barrage of tasty, immensely satisfying riffs proved they could very much stand on their own. Songs such as biggest hit 'Wires' were played with the confidence and energy of a headliner, and judging by the reaction of the crowd this was not lost on anyone.
Mastodon treated the audience a baptism of fire upon taking to the stage, launching into 13-minute epic (and a personal favourite) ‘The Last Baron’ for their opener. A thoroughly absorbing tune from start to finish, the track is divided down the middle by a angular, atonal and highly technical guitar solo which was executed with absolute precision; pretty spectacular on the recorded version, but all the more incredible when reproduced live.
Next playing ‘The Sultan's Curse’ off new album Emperor of Sand, it was not until a frantic rendition of ‘Divinations' that a mosh pit broke out at the centre front – a sweat-drenched fixture that would remain active for the rest of the set.
Guitarists Brent Hinds was not afraid to showcase his virtuosic skills by gleefully launching into face-melting guitar solos, one particular highlight being an extended outro to ‘Colony of Birchmen' played, as with all the highly technical instrumentals of the night, seemingly effortlessly.
The setlist focused more on new tracks; though all certainly enjoyable the audience were undeniably more interested in the classics. This was perhaps most evident with the relatively sombre hit ‘Oblivion’, which saw an onslaught of crowd surfers (much to the displeasure of security), and the punk-influenced closer ‘Blood and Thunder’, in which the mosh pit reach peak ferocity.
"Newcastle? I looked it up, and its actually pretty old... should really be called Old-castle" said drummer Brann Dailor, taking to the mic post-set to say thanks and tell some similar jokes. Cheesy? Very much so, though the crowd loved it nonetheless. And honestly, Mastodon could have said whatever the hell they liked following that performance, and we all likely would've still cheered.