If you fancy yourself a metal head and you have never heard of Mastodon, than I imagine you hold your copy of Metallica’s the Black album at the peak of your metal collection. True metal aficionados know Mastodon very well. They have come to recognize the bands head smashing riffs, machine gun drumming, ground breaking bass lines and duel battling guitar runs as the ideal sound of today’s metal. In a time when many metal acts share an exhausted, overused template, a general sound collaborating Slayer, Maiden, Sabbath and Metallica into a dedication of influences, Mastodon cruises in their own direction. A successful combination of classic metal with jaw dropping time signature changes and uncanny speed, they have shown us all that true metal goes way beyond excessive double bass and repetitive use of the low E.

Their 2002 sophomore studio release, Remission, turned a lot of heads. Two years later they took a bottle to those turned heads with the critically acclaimed Leviathan, which was named Album of the Year by magazines such as Metal Hammer, Kerrang! and Revolver. Today they are on the road in support of their new record, Blood Mountain, which I can describe only as a wet dream for stoner-rockers, progressive metal heads and everyone in between. The truth is that Mastodon has been steadily climbing the ladder toward metal supremacy since Metallica added a symphony.

The polyrhythmic prog-rockers from the dirty south brought their extreme brand of metal to Toronto’s Kool Haus in the midst of their tour to promote Blood Mountain on May 15, 2007. Sardonic punk rockers Cursive and folk-rockers Against Me rounded out the bizarre bill; more often than not a bill for a metal show consists of strictly metal acts. Yet despite the wide variety of sounds, the intimate crowd consistently reassured through the Mastodon chants that they came to see some gun blazing metal.

Mastodon took the stage to the roar of an estimated 1,000 plus with “Iron Tusk”, a cut from Leviathan that is introduced by a gut-busting killer fill from drummer Brann Dailor. Like every great metal band, Mastodon features immaculate, precise drumming from a slugger widely considered amongst the best in the world. If you have never seen Dailor behind the kit, I suggest that you do so immediately. The man is nothing short of Godly.

Mastodon is all business when they hit the stage, no redundant introductions and no cliché references to the city they are playing in. They get right to work and spare the audience of any wasted time in their set. Less talk, more rock so to speak. The show featured plenty of new material as the band displayed jams such as “Crystal Skull,” “Bladecatcher” and “Colony of Birchmen,” a song that was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards but lost to Slayer’s “Eyes of the Insane.” Fan favorites such as “March of the Fire Ants,” “I am Ahab” and “Aqua Dementia” kicked up the intensity in the pit to war-like proportions. I saw a shoeless kid completely loose his marbles as the band ripped its way through “The Wolf is Loose,” one of my personal favorites from the new record.

The only aspect that was not picture perfect with their set was the sound, which many veteran concert goers in Toronto can agree with when I say that the Kool Haus has a history of poor sound. Bassist Troy Sanders visibly showed his distaste with the consistent feedback when he eerily glared at the sound booth half way through the set. After a quick ‘thanks for coming,’ the band concluded the night with “Blood and Thunder,” easily the bands most recognizable song thanks to its presence in the soundtracks of racing video games such as Project Gotham Racing 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The song’s opening riff triggered a mass eruption within the audience where many, including myself, thought that they might not hear the band play their bread and butter. But alas, dinner was served, and I left the show thinking two things. These guys really are the metal band of the decade, and I think they are just getting started.

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