Mastodon at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Friday 17 February 2007
The braininess of Atlanta quartet Mastodon's fusion of metal and prog rock is apparent from the group's intricately cultivated elemental themes (fire on 2002's "Remission," water on the "Moby-Dick"-inspired "Leviathan," and earth on last year's "Blood Mountain") and from its consistent brand of album art executed in close collaboration with Philadelphia painter Paul Romano. On Saturday night at the 9:30 club, despite being removed from a calculated studio setting, the group still showed that intellect in a tight 75-minute set of raging guitar riffs and thunderous drum fills.
In fact, the only decidedly non-brainy moment of the performance came when singer-guitarist Brent Hinds motioned to the club's kitchen and asked whether the crowd ever threw food at a band. (Thankfully, no one succumbed to the power of suggestion.) For the rest of the smoothly flowing set, the group blazed through riff after stunning riff with few between-songs interruptions. Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders traded and shared vocal duties, their anguished bellows amplifying the passion on "This Mortal Soul" and "Aqua Dementia."
Though ardent, those vocals may have been the show's only weak spot, as it was nearly impossible to distinguish words (and therefore, those clever themes) in Hinds's and Sanders's roars. But the sold-out crowd hardly seemed to notice, judging from the sea of fists pumping in the air during the heavily cadenced "Blood and Thunder."
-- Catherine P. Lewis