Live! Mastodon @ Huxley's Neue Welt, Berlin 23/8/16
By Barnaby Britten
At this point in time, Mastodon is hardly the sort of band that needs an introduction. They’ve been releasing incredible, unique metal albums for the best part of 15 years now and their reputation for replicating their studio sound in a live setting with uncanny precision precedes itself. So before last night’s gig at Huxley’s Neue Welt in Neukölln, Berlin, expectations were certainly not low.
Needless to say, Mastodon smashed it. Opening up with the first track from 2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun, “Tread Lightly”, Mastodon hit the ground running. The track coming from the bands post-Crack the Skye era of more straightforward metal songwriting with a propensity for catchy choruses, it put everyone in the mood for a good party; everyone was bouncing around and singing along with the band as Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor all shared vocal duties. This vibe continued for a further two tracks, namely “Feast Your Eyes”, also from their latest LP, and “Blasteroid” from 2011’s The Hunter. The pit was full of life and the band’s voices could sometimes barely be heard above the Berlin crowd’s own enthusiastic singing.
Then the tone darkened, as the sinister intro to “Oblivion” began to ring around the venue, and as with the preceding three tracks, the band executed it perfectly. Mastodon have never been known for being the most energetic of live performers, instead preferring to let the music speak for itself. Despite this reputation all three members who weren’t behind the kit did move around the stage, occasionally interacting with one another and clearly enjoying the show as much as the fans were. One point that springs to mind is when Brent, Troy and Bill were all stood next to each other shredding in classic epic metal style.
After “Oblivion”, Mastodon performed three more songs from Once More…: “The Motherload”, “Chimes at Midnight” and “High Road” respectively, and all three went down a storm with the fans. Then came a whole four pre-The Hunter tracks in a row, which I for one was not expecting. When the opening riff of “Mother Puncher” from the bands debut LP Remission began, the fans of the bands older material clearly appreciated it, and the pit started up again with renewed fervour. The same could be said for the follow up of Aqua Dementia from 2004’s cult classic Leviathan. Brent actually had a little solo shredding session that fed into this song which really whipped the crowd into a frenzy by the time it dropped.
Following that one-two punch of riffs came the eleven minute epic that is “Crack the Skye”. Words can’t really describe the atmosphere created by this song in a live setting, it’s like a whole gig in itself as it takes you on a journey that seemingly ends where it started. And then they returned to metaphorically destroying our faces with the crazy, semi-instrumental “Bladecatcher” off of their major label debut Blood Mountain, which again I never expected to hear live.
The band followed this with the straight up rocker “Black Tongue” before another trio of pre-The Hunter material: the wild, fast-paced, riff-filled “The Wolf Is Loose” and “Divinations”, followed by stoner rock influenced “Colony of Birchmen”. With a dedication to the fans and a proclamation that this was “the best Berlin show we’ve ever played” the band knocked out another balls-to-the-wall rocker in “Ember City” before closing out their 80 minute set with the absolute banger that is “Blood and Thunder”, leaving sore necks all round. After which Brann emerged from behind the kit to take the mic as his bandmates left the stage to reiterate how good the show was and to announce that they’d be writing a new record and coming back soon.
*Header artwork by Harry Irons