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Mastodon weighs in at DC’s 9:30 Club

Written By | Jun 13, 2014

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 – Mastodon is often included with genre acts that don’t necessarily line up with their distinctive style of music. They’ve toured and performed with Heavy Metal, Hardcore, Death Metal, and every genre in between, while never quite fitting in with any of them. But at the same, they’ve never felt too distant from these genres either.

They are correctly, if vaguely described as some variation of Metal. But it’s difficult to actually find the right way to describe them in the kind of terminology we’ve grown accustomed to hearing and reading.

During their recent show at the 9:30 Club, Mastodon headlined for two noticeably metal bands, complete with heavy riffs – something Mastodon isn’t unfamiliar with – growling vocals, and the savage attack of a double bass drum. This partially describes what Mastodon, and the heavy action certainly got the crowd going.

Mastodon isn’t really a metal band. Or rather, it’s not a metal band the way we commonly use that term today. Instead, they more closely resemble a modern classic rock band cranked up to 11.

Generally speaking, Mastodon isn’t a new breed of rockers for our era. But at the same time, they have been a key inspiration for the kind of hard rock/metal hybrid that seems to be very specifically a Georgia staple now. Mastodon is pioneering the way toward a true alternative metal, or at least the kind of metal that will appeal to anyone who is sick of metal acts that trot out a routine and tired clichés.

As they demonstrated at the 9:30 Club before a sold out audience, there are very few bands, metal, punk, hardcore, or anything in between that can play harder or louder than Mastodon. But beyond the deafening sound, there’s also considerable diversity when it comes to this Atlanta four piece.

That diversity is the primary reason why Mastodon is one of the more heralded aggressive rock bands out there today. It’s certainly why they’re able to sell out shows like the one here. Nothing about the band is uniquely based on a single individual trait. Instead, Mastodon is more a manifestation of individual of traits they throw into their mix, all while keep the sound tightly held together in one easy-to-consume musical package.

Mastodon borrows from a multitude of sources, which allows them to bridge the gap between and among numerous niche genres without actually being a pure example of any of them. They incorporate the hard riffing of a heavy metal band, but also manifest many elements of the kind of methodical chugging that goes along with sludge metal. All the while on their musical journey, they manage to keep their compositions endlessly progressive.

Even during their live shows, they remain an endlessly challenging band to listen to. Mastodon never rest their laurels when it comes to a given sound or level of quality. They aggressively veer off into several different directions regardless of the song they’re playing, which may sound positively jam band like but they never once forget the economic of song construction.

Expressed in a different way, it’s so much easier to sonically punch the audience in the throat when that audience can’t get lost in the complexity of the sound. And it’s this that defines the groove Mastodon is putting them through.

For a band as hard as Mastodon, you tend to carry with you the feeling that, after a concert put on by this troupe, a fight has broken out somewhere after the conclusion of every song. It’s this kind of intensity Mastodon has brought to every one of their shows since they started out as a band. They’ve continued it through each of their albums since, ranging from 2002’s “Remission”to the soon-to-be-released “Once More ‘Round the Sun” which they deployed heavily as their show’s introductory number.

Mastodon’s complexities create a visceral reaction among their enthusiasts, which is why metal and hard rock fans can’t get enough of them live on stage. It’s certainly a prime reason their shows will continue to be as intense as the one they cranked out at the 9:30 Club here for many years to come.


Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer. He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years. Currently he lives in Vienna, VA. He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.