The Academy 1, Manchester 06/02/2012
Red Fang are a great great band. I ask thee, how can you go wrong with such ace song writing? This addictive blend of some of the fondest bits of Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins & Masters of Reality plus their own gnarly post-grunge sound makes for a heady brew of gorgeous harmony thick rock-punk. They ripped and roared their way through 30 heavy minutes of sublimely catchy rock, igniting the often lacklustre Manchester crowd like dry kindling. A kind of revised grunge for the early 21st century, Red Fang offer me hope that sublime summertime melody and skull-cracking riffs did not die with Josh Homme’s once fertile muse. Super-catchy tracks like ‘Wires’, ‘Hank is Dead’ and ‘Into The Eye’ lend themselves most perfectly to the visceral joy of the live experience. Hats off to John Sherman too, their natural-born drummer boy. What a fine bludgeoning beat monkey this moustache-wearing chap is. An obvious comparison would be the toothsome King of the Skins David Grohl. The Portlanders finished on the superbly catchy mega-stomper that is ‘Prehistoric Dog’ and the crowd went crazy ape-shit nuts. ‘Time to kiss your ass goodbye’ never sounded so fucking invigorating. Stardom beckons.
Dillinger Escape Plan were not particularly inspiring, apart from at points inspiring my own escape plan to the bar or toilet. In truth, I have not listened to the band since their masterful math-rock classic ‘Calculating Infinity’, but I am aware of their jaunty and angular pedigree in the annals of quirk-core insanity. After an initial curiosity, there was a certain indifference on the part of the packed venue to their juddering and at times strangely commercial sounding noise-rock. Half marks really for an adrenalized yet hollow performance that in a smaller venue would have made more dramatic sense.
Mastodon eh? Bearing in mind their last two ultra-smooth Billboard Top 10 albums, I can’t help but think that they’ve traded in their spark to suck out the mega-bucks from Satan’s scaly pecker. They were okay, or they might have been fantastic. I’m not really sure. During the show I shifted many times from deciding that they are a force past their best (a fact often indicated by headlining at The Academy 1) to deciding they are a contemporary example of a classic rock band. I’ve always had a decidedly ambivalent attitude towards these very obviously talented individuals. On the one claw their past material makes for utterly thrilling listening, in particular the entirety of ‘Blood Mountain’. What a damn fine piece of music that beauty is. On the other claw, Mastodon have a strong tendency to stray too much into the realm of polished big money prog-metal yawndom, particularly on their last two long players, which are notable for a huge, successful and ultimately castrated sound that steers away from the aggressive and pulsing originality of their earlier work. Still, new tracks like ‘Dry Bone Valley’, ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Thickening’ sounded far fuller and heavier than they do on the unsatisfying yet interesting ‘The Hunter’.
It was most redeeming to hear the Atlanta four-piece blast out complex power-classics like ‘Capillarian Crest’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’, ‘Blood and Thunder’ and ‘Circle of Cysquatch’, a fact which casts a long shadow over their recent material. Considering I was disappointed watching Mastodon exactly two years ago at this very venue, where they played (rooted to the spot) the whole of ‘Crack the Skye’ and very little else, this wasn’t a half bad show. Brann Dailor’s superhuman drumming was of course jaw-dropping and the twin guitar subtleties of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher were spell-bindingly good. Unfortunately their performance was yet again physically static and rather unexciting, and I concluded that Mastodon are possibly one of those bands who are best enjoyed on the stereo system at home than in a cavernous hall with a thousand-strong audience of tour-shirt buying zomboids. If I may end on a little advice for these four young rockers from America: please listen Mastodon, you could be cool again – ditch the global ambitions, stop all this musical maturity nonsense and rediscover that left-field post-hardcore fury that once made you one of the hottest tickets in metal.
Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards