Mastodon + Bad Breeding
Ulster Hall, Belfast
June 28th, 2015
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photos by Jamie Hunter
Mastodon‘s ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ tour hit Belfast again last week, a mere seven months since they were last here. It should be noted that, amongst the ecstatic fans crammed into the venue (the larger Ulster Hall this time) there was not one person questioning the band’s decision to return so soon…
Openers Bad Breeding stride onstage to a sociopolitical commentary voiceover and launch into their frenzied brand of hardcore punk. Their sound is rather discordant and aggressive and thus quite jarring to the still only half full room who came tonight to hear some prog metal.
Vocalist Chris Dodds seems to sense the bafflement in the crowd and responds with baleful, confronting glares and no interaction whatsoever. Though the band are clearly passionate about their message, their combination of open hostility and apparent disinterest towards the audience leaves most people cold (and a bit bored, frankly).
Moving swiftly on…the half hour wait for tonight’s headliners has the crowd almost panting in anticipation, and when the house lights finally drop the resulting roar is deafening. Mastodon file onstage in tantalising fashion and then proceed to rock the fuck out. Opener ‘Tread Lightly’ is (despite Mr Grumpypants Hinds’ recent scowling about being in a metal band) simply piledriving in its heaviness, much to the delight of everyone at this sweaty sold out gig.
The use of multiple band members on lead vocal duties adds a delightful complexity to their already densely layered songs; to have such equally participative members could be said to be Mastodon’s USP.
Each song is met with simply bonkers levels of noisy adoration, with the slightest gestures from the band resulting in the crowd chanting and fist pumping with abandon. Even the slower, proggier moments throb with intensity, such as a slow burning ‘The Motherload’ and a dreamy ‘Old Nessie’.
Despite a few sound issues (most notably Hinds’ vocals getting lost in the mix at times) the band are firing on all cylinders tonight, with centre stage bassist Troy Sanders seemingly in a particularly playful mood (and earning brownie points by wearing a tshirt emblazoned with local legends Stiff Little Fingers). Hinds is his usual stoic self, saving his energy for several blistering guitar solos (on multiple guitars), whilst drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher are also in astonishingly good form. Such a wealth of talent results in a severe case of ‘swivel neck’ as your eye is drawn from one member to the next, almost unable to take it all in.
This being part of the ‘OMRTS’ tour, tonight’s setlist draws heavily on that album, with songs such as ‘Chimes at Midnight’, ‘Ember City’, lead single ‘High Road’ and of course the title track being aired. They also bring out some older crowd favourites such as the moshtastic ‘Crystal Skull’ and ‘The Czar’, with its almost choral vocals from Hinds and Sanders.
After a blinding ‘Black Tongue’ the devoted crowd are finally rewarded for their patience as the band address them, chatting amiably about the fact that they were here such a short time ago (“next time we come back will have to be in three months, then!”). The crowd respond with pure joy; frankly by that stage they could have played ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and started a moshpit for the end of the show!
Instead, they elect to wrap their set up with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’ “because we love Ireland”, a move which sends both the crowd into raptures and their brownie point collection into the stratosphere – a nice touch.
As if to prove their uniqueness, the final word goes to drummer and co-vocalist Dailor, who waxes lyrical about coming to Belfast and how much the band love it here, to which the crowd duly goes nuts. Well played, Mastodon! Hopefully it won’t be too long before this most vibrant and intriguing band is ‘once more ’round’ here again.
Once More ‘Round the Sun
Chimes at Midnight