At first listen to all three bands, you would think they are all about making the heaviest, most brutal metal that they can. When in reality, there is so much more that goes into each band that initially meets the ear.
I'll start with Kvelertak as they were the opener opener. They came on right at 7:30 and I missed their first song, but these 6 Norwegians were excellent openers. Their lyrics were in a different language, not that I would've understood much anyway. Their lead singer employs a death-metal-esque growling style of singing. Despite this delivery, their music was very high energy, uptempo hard rock. At times, you can hear a huge punk rock influence whereas other times, you can hear a more traditional classic metal style (a la AC/DC, Iron Maiden). I found this easy to listen guitar based hard rock to be the perfect way to start off the show.
Next, Gojira came on at about 8:15. I had been looking forward to seeing this French metal band for quite some time. Now I'll admit, I'm a big Gojira fan, but just as of recent. I heard about them because they opened for Slayer in Chicago (a show I did not attend). Anyway, these guys came on stage with one goal in mind and that was to rock......hard. Their breed of metal is very heavy death metal, but extremely technical. Their set started out with 2 songs off their latest album. The stage set up was classic metal; stacks of amps (havne't seen a metal band use so many Eddie Van Halen's EVH amps), with the drum riser in the middle. A light bar on top of the amps provide the right amount of strobe lights; as in the right amount to add effect to the pounding double bass, but not enough to make you look away out of fear of a seizure. The highlight of the show was the title track off their latest album, L'Enfant Sauvage. Hearing the intro to this song for the first time many months ago is what first got me hooked on this band. There are some very technical portions of this song that I was very curious to see them perform live. Needless to say they nailed it and made it look as if any schmo with an electric guitar can play it on their first day. The bassist was by far the most animated of the group as he would run all over the stage, jump up and down off risers, and swing his bass around his head while never really missing a note. Negative note: the vocals for Gojira were poorly balanced with the rest of the music and if I was not so familiar with the lyrics, I would've missed out on hearing much of anything. Positive note: the lead singer/guitarist and drummer's mom (they're brothers) was born in Madison, WI in 1950 and it was their first time playing in Madison.
Mastodon came on at 9:30. They jumped right into music from the new album, Once More Round the Sun. This album is their most "radio friendly" album yet (meaning songs follow more of a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse structure and are a little more condensed). This translated to a hit the ground running first 20 minutes of the concert. It was almost like a Motorhead show where before you realize it, you're 5 songs in because they are just coming at you one after the other. The setlist consisted of songs from all throughout their career. The highlight of the show was without a doubt the finale of Blood and Thunder. This is their most iconic song and one that the crowd gets the most into. I've heard some negative rumbling about how Once More Round the Sun was Mastodon "selling out". There was no evidence of this at the Orpheum. All of the fans were singing along with new songs The Motherload, High Road, and Ember City. I personally really like the album and was glad to hear the majority of it performed live. Being the headliner, the only things on the stage was their equipment which allowed them the ability to move around more. They didn't really take advantage of the expansive stage space as the bassist and two guitarists focused more on their finger work then they did on seeing all sides of the stage. Mastodon's music is not easy to play (this coming from someone who has no musical ability). Brent Hinds and his glorious face-tat would come to the edge of the stage for a solo every now and then. Troy Sanders (one of the few bass playing metal front men) handled not only singing lead vocals on the majority of songs and playing bass, but crowd interaction as well.
In conclusion, these three bands prove that metal is about more than simple riffs and some double bass drums. All three of them are unique in their own breed of metal, but all do so with extreme ability and expertise. Their music requires much more than a first listen to truly appreciate the genius.
- One of the many reasons why I am encouraged by metal fans is their willingness to open their minds. It seemed like everyone there thoroughly enjoyed both Kvelertak and Gojira even though their styles aren't the same as the headliner.
- Joe Duplantier, the lead singer / guitarist in Gojira was wearing a Kvelertak shirt. I always think it's cool when bands wear shirts of the guys that just played the stage right before them.
- Gojira is all about the environment and saving whales. Someone from the crowd had a small blow up whale that he gave to the drummer after the show. Most all of their lyrics involve sustainability, nature, and our impact on the earth.
- I'd be willing to put Mastodon's drummer Brann Dailor up there with any drummer in heavy metal. He's good. Really good.