11. December 2014, Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland (Photos by Sandy Mahrer on Flickr)
Once again, Mastodon toured Europe and once again, they called at Z7 in Pratteln near Basle. They are so familiar with the location that drummer Brann Dailor wants to make it his second home. That´s, at least, what he said after the gig to much applause.
But before we get acquainted with extinct elephant ancestors, some quite lively reptiles cross our way. With their latest album, Nachash, Krokodil from the UK just made the Rolling Stone Top 20 Best Metal Albums of 2014 list. Amazing, considering the fact that they formed only in 2011. According to themselves, they are mostly „beards and riffs“ and those two were exactly the things, the concert goes could marvel at during the band´s show. Plus, some impressive vocals – sometimes clean, sometimes harsh – mostly, though, the singer (mostly beard-free) shouted his way through the evening programme – in the most positive sense way. The crowd regarded Krokodil with favour and also the STALKER reviewer took much delight in the ambitious hardcore sound. Exactly the heaviness the evening needed.
After them, it got a little weird. Big Business from the US turned out to be a rather small business. On stage were only two men: one on drums, the other on bass. On their Facebook page, the band claims they are a trio but then what happened to the guitarist? Was he abducted by aliens or did he get lost on the Basle Christmas Market, high on mulled wine and hot chocolate? Or did he just hide well? We don´t know. But at least we got hammered, at least, this was how it felt like when drums and bass hit our ear canals. People near us really seemed to like that kind of auditory assault. The STALKER crew, however, couldn´t really warm to the Metal version of drum´n´bass. Our verdict: only for devotees.
Then, the time had come for the guys from Atlanta. The venue, painted in green, was well-attended but not sold out. Thereupon, Mastodon kicked off their show with two new songs, Tready Lightly and Once More Round the Sun. To be honest, I´m not a big fan of the band´s new material, somehow I miss the elemental force of their earlier stuff. Did someone pull the Mastodon´s tusks? Accordingly, the crowd´s and my response was rather reserved.
“Blasteroid” and “Oblivion” acted almost like a temporary moodlifter. Until this point, I had the impression that everything came across as rather laid-back. “Old men´s rock” came to my mind briefly. Somehow it felt people will start to swing and sway rather than mosh and headbang. Is it the new material that prevents the energy to move from stage to audience? All the guys are damn good musicians but they can rarely show it. Thus, one of the few highlights this evening were the way too few and short solos from guitarist Brent Hinds. Anyway, my neck muscles could mostly rest and I was wondering: what was the name of that first band again?
In-between, there were some rays of hope: Ol´e Nessie from the debut album Remission or Megalodon and Crystal Skull show that Mastodon know how to do it: ingenious signature riffs, alternating with raw, musical extreme acts of violence. And, these songs, despite being ten years old or even older, still work live, much better than the newer tunes. The show concluded with Blood and Thunder, as expected and hoped for. And this is when the crowd went bananas for the first time. Then, it was over.
What remains of the evening? With a few more classics like „March of the Fire Ants“, „I am Ahab“ or „Colony of Birchmen“, I´m sure there would have been much more reason to rejoice. At least for me. I came to realise that neither on CD nor live will I much enjoy the band´s new songs. I guess I have to stick with Leviathan and Blood Mountain for now and hope that perhaps the band will some day play them live in their entirety.