More than four years without visiting Portuguese soil, Mastodon came back with many promising stories full of metal in their luggage. Even though “Emperor of Sand” is cleaner, at a production level, it is still a journey back to their roots, no doubt. When the album is brought to a live event it becomes a powerful experience, no less than Leviathan or Blood Mountain. But we will get there.
Coming over to the welcoming parties, and so it seems, used to Mastodon workouts, are the folks from Brighton – Black Peaks. Unlike many, I didn’t think of them as the worst it gets, although their efforts were indeed… effortless. The band started as a post-rock trio named Shrine in the early 2010’s, but soon hired the intrepid vocalist James Gardner. Still, you could see the difference of the band performance, with and without. In fact, those moments where the trio were along on the stage, to themselves, were the most enjoyable ones. Only to be suddenly “Surprise! I’m still here!” interrupted by the screams of James Gardner.
The long 40 minutes were up, and after the 40 more for stage set-up, Mastodon… the Georgia, USA quartet, finally came up forward, and presented themselves to the Portuguese audience. Or was it the other way around? Not used to being very talkative and being straight-to-the point, the band started the show firing riffs, directly from the new album “Emperor of Sand”.
But, soon the old stuff was there to leave its mark, (especially from “Blood Mountain”). Also, any hit they could get. The “Divination” banjo start screaming through Brent’s Gibson, and the crowd started reacted almost immediately, followed by the fierce and crowd favorites “The Wolf is Loose”, “Crystal Skull” and “Bladecatcher”.
By then we could see that the balance was a little bit uneven. Brent’s lead guitar was almost present, and shrouded all the other instruments, particularly Bill’s rhythm guitar, whilst Troy’s solid performance on the bass was nearly flawless, as well as on the voice. Surely one of the highlights of the evening for me. Brann on the other hand, though unstoppable, and for me one the most talented drummers of its generation, was not as shiny as in previous performances.
The show was on, and quite energetic, as a Mastodon show is supposed to be. The classics “Oblivion”, “Colony of Birchmen” served to stir the crowd only to introduce the new albums tracks. “Ember city”, (preceded the missed “Megalodon” and “Oblivion”), and afterwards and the long sequence of “Emperor of Sand” – the catchy “Show Yourself”, “Precious Stones”, “Roots Remain”, proved to complete a very balanced setlist.
Still I really missed the long progressive tracks that really made me like Mastodon in the 1st place. I’m referring to “The Czar”, “Heart Alive” or “Last Baron”. But I get that such tracks couldn’t cover such great crowd aspirations like the presented setlist could.
Over almost 100 minutes of non-stop rocking, we could notice that the gig was coming to an end. Like a scripted play “Circle of Cysquatch” and “March of the Fire Ends” preview a drapery fall. By then, the band’s enthusiasm and joy with the Portuguese audience rose to the level that Brann came up front to ask for an encore. Everyone knew it was “Blood and Thunder”. The show had ended. Hopefully it won’t take as long to return!