Last Night: Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High on Fire
Metalocalypse Tour with Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High on Fire
Nov. 21, 2009
San Jose State Event Center
Better than: Getting your ass whupped by Glenn Danzig's cartoon twin.
It takes a pretty stellar concert lineup to coax even the most fanatical San Francisco music fan all the way to San Jose on a Saturday night, but the promise offered by the final stop of the Adult Swim-sponsored Metalocalypse Tour made the trip to the South Bay a no brainer. If sets from Oakland's own sludge maestros High on Fire and the mighty prog-metal juggernaut that is Mastodon weren't enough to entice, a headlining performance by Dethklok - the Cartoon Network's animated death metal equivalent of Spinal Tap - sealed the deal.
Unfortunately, a preposterously punctual start time dashed any hopes for a headbanger's trifecta. Despite leaving SF prior to sunset, we missed all but a song and change of High on Fire's brief 30-minute set. Given guitarist Matt Pike's iconic status as a founder of the South Bay stoner-rock legends Sleep, you'd think his band might get the benefit of a tour-closing hometown line-up shuffle. No such luck. In fact, friends who were waiting to enter the venue at the 6:30 p.m. start time said you could already hear the band playing when the doors opened. WTF? The trio still garnered an enthusiastic response from those who managed to make it in time to catch their locomotive crunch and Pike's authoritative guitar fury.
Boston metalcore outfit Converge
was the one question mark on the Metalocalypse bill, for good reason as
it turned out. The band's indecipherable hash of screamo vocals and
lurching, spastic guitar grind stirred plenty of grumbling over the
group's time slot at the beer concessions. There were no such divisions
in the crowd once Converge wrapped and the palpable anticipation for
Mastodon commenced. Whether aggressively jockeying for position against
the rail at stage front or settling into seats to fully absorb the
audio-visual assault of the quartet's psych-metal magnum opus Crack the
Skye, vocal audience members left little doubt about who they were
there to see.
From the ominous opening chords and chugging onslaught of "Oblivion"
through to the neck-snapping denouement of "The Last Baron," the
Atlanta-based foursome unleashed the entire album with a crushing
majesty that has only become more refined since the band began touring
the full-length rendition last March. Somehow balancing the seething
violence of Slayer and expansive sonic vistas right out of the Pink
Floyd playbook (helped in part by the projected backdrop of deep space
and mad monks imagery), Crack the Skye may well end up being the
group's Dark Side of the Moon. Rounding things out with an encore of
earlier gems including "Circle of Cysquatch" and "Aqua Dementia,"
Mastodon once again delivered a show that was as face-meltingly
virtuosic as it was emotionally resonant.
Headliner Dethklok took the visual element to nearly
seizure-inducing levels as excerpts from the band's surreal animated
series strobed on the screen to accompany creator Brendon Small's crew
of high-octane death metal ringers. Powered by monster drummer Gene
Hoglan (who has played with Death, Testament, and Strapping Young Lad,
to name a few) and guitar-shredding former Zappa/Vai acolyte Mike
Kenneally, Dethklok surpassed any novelty-act expectations with
punishing versions of "Dethsupport" and "Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle."
The constant barrage of visuals forced an early exit, but after
Mastodon's masterful set, Dethklok still proved a tasty and
Personal Bias: This was the third time this year Mastodon melted my face off. They are metal fucking gods.
Random Detail: SF company Double Fine promoted its new metal fantasy game Brutal Legend by giving away cool iron-on patches. Righteous schwag!
By the way: I'd go to more San Jose metal shows if the South Bay weren't so damn far south.