Words by Amelinda Burich
This past Sunday, the Eagle’s Ballroom hosted a packed house of metal fans in support of dual headliners Dethklok and Mastodon. The sizeable crowd was not surprising considering the increasing amount of metal-edged programming proffered by basic cable: a weekend of VH1 Classic airing metal-based documentaries, and animated band Dethklok’s residency on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network’s genre-satirizing program, Metalocalypse. The fans, while off the couch only to view a giant LED screen, seemed to take the music quite seriously.
I unfortunately missed the first act of the night, High on Fire, who went on around 6:30 p.m. with their sludgy but driving rock bringing diversity to the bill, along with mathcore veteran, Converge. The fans were unappreciative of the delineation of genre, heckling Converge, who played a high energy set with Jacob Bannon’s epileptic delivery of a smattering of their oeuvre from albums “Jane Doe,” “You Fail Me” and upcoming “Axe to Fall” (the rest were forgettable).
Mastodon brought their crushing but melodic brand of metal in front of the LED of digital psychedelic graphics and album cover montages. The venue’s poor acoustics reverberated and muffled the usually driving beats played by drummer Brann Dailor, but the band performed a tight set. The quartet presented their newest offering, Crack the Skye, in its entirety as a score to the imagery behind them, both conceptual works based on astral projection, wormholes and awe of the universe. The concept and banter-free performance seem an effort to push against the age of the “single,” perhaps harking to their influences. A few favorites from their catalog were included in the set with pleasing waltz tempo rhythms.
Lest fans forget that this was a Turner/Time Warner/EA Games-sponsored tour, between sets, a commercial for Jack Black’s upcoming video game “Brütal Legend” played as a mini-episode of Metalocalyspe. Mastodon are no strangers to caricature, appearing in “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters” as ironically brutal movie theater snacks [see video, below].
Dethklok, however truly are a cartoon band, conceived and performed by Brendon Small, incarnated alongside heavy-hitting legends Gene Hoglan, Bryan Beller and Mike Keneally. Some original animated material was presented on screen as a sort of backstage episode of the show incorporating music video and was complete with uncensored disclaimers from the floating skull “Facebones.” Their explosive energy managed to cut through the muddy acoustics (or maybe the sound engineer just had them up louder); the light show and driving sound were met with a responsive, satisfied crowd of head-bobbing, devil horns and cheers. I was especially grateful for the impactful renditions of minute-long “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle” and sing-a-long favorite, “Murmaider.”