Show Review: Mastodon with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Red Fang at The Warfield, 11/3/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on November 4, 2011

The hunters

The hunters

With a musical movement like metal, being significant, staying relevant, and still having room to experiment while perfecting your craft is always a difficult combination of skills to possess. The genre calls for solid commitment to unyielding volume, viciously downtuned notes and hellish distortion, with vocals that span from the powerful to the deranged, and lyrics that cross a general spectrum of darkness, mayhem, and more-than-mild discontent. To introduce any additional elements into this equation makes a solution extremely difficult to arrive at, but for the Atlanta metal masterminds of Mastodon, experimentation is simply the bolt of lightning that breathes life into their compositions, which have not at all dwindled in their ferocity from album to album.

Aaron Beam and John Sherman of Red Fang

Aaron Beam and John Sherman of Red Fang

With a monumental battering ram like Mastodon owning the evening of a metal show, it made perfect sense to allow one of their doom-minded compatriots to kick the evening off, and the Portland quartet known as Red Fang did so with gusto. While not as densely experimental as their headliners, Red Fang’s songs possess a powerful strength unto their own, chugging along with great precision and menace while never falling into a particular pigeonhole of doom, stoner, blues, or other common subset of aggressive death metal. They were only offered a six-song set, much shorter than their appearance earlier this year opening for Helmet, but still managed to inspire a wild mosh pit in the crowd, all the while blasting away relentlessly with an intensity that shook the walls of the Warfield Theater.

Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson of The Dillinger Escape Plan

Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson of The Dillinger Escape Plan

However, it must definitely be pointed out that if Red Fang began the evening with a slow but punishing onslaught of sludgy riffs and crashing drums, the Dillinger Escape Plan was an absolutely cataclysmic shockwave of frightening energy and unabashed chaos. The New Jersey quintet, well known for their mindbogglingly complicated time signatures and astonishing freight trains of snarling riffs and bare-fisted vocals from frontman Greg Puciato, carry the same demonic energy from their maniacal songs into their onstage presence. Rarely has a band been seen that barreled out onto the stage and immediately began hurling them about like a set of rabid wolves set upon a flock of terrified prey. Puciato spent many moments hurled into the crowd, mic gripped for dear life as he battled with the fans below, while guitarists Ben Weinman and Jeff Tuttle found new ways to climb up, and throw themselves off of, every single amp on the stage. The enthusiasm of the crowd, already at a fevered pitch, reached an earsplitting roar when the band was joined onstage by Mike Patton, vocalist of Faith No More, who trading dueling vocals with Puciato for one of the songs that he had recorded with the band in 2002.

Mike Patton joins The Dillinger Escape Plan

Mike Patton joins The Dillinger Escape Plan

The evening thus progressed, from the opening winds of Red Fang and the howling gale of The Dillinger Escape Plan, to the eye of the tornado that was Mastodon. While not exhibiting the dynamite-fueled ferocity that Puciato and the rest of Dillinger had carved out in sonic bloodshed, Mastodon’s true might lay in their incredible precision and hauntingly powerful songwriting. Moving away from the slow but epic sounds of Crack The Skye, songs from Mastodon’s new album The Hunter saw the band taking their earlier experiments and using them to lay groundwork for pieces that borrowed from older schools of thought and newer states of mind. Every piece from The Hunter shows a brilliant maturity and a great understanding of their full catalogue; those who know Mastodon well will, quite likely, be enamored of the new material, and those who have never been exposed will find The Hunter to be a most excellent starting point.

Troy Sanders of Mastodon

Troy Sanders of Mastodon

In keeping tune with the forwardness and steadfast devotion to their craft, Mastodon plowed through their set with nary a pause for conversation or greeting. Near the end, singer Troy Sanders and guitarist Brent Hinds exchanged a comment of amazement over being placed after The Dillinger Escape Plan, and a few words of praise were mentioned for both of their opening acts. However, the rest of the 90-minute set was used to the absolute best of their ability, with a whopping 21 songs on the setlist, and no form of encore accompanying the end of their set. The crowd ebbed and flowed in response to the tunes; songs from The Hunter danced the gap between the slow, intense meditation for Crack The Skye and the furious thrashings for Blood Mountain and Leviathan. If ever there was any doubt about the crowd’s level of energy by the end of the night, however, it was beheld in full form by the ending number, “Blood And Thunder”, a much-loved favorite that got the last ounces of blood and sweat poured onto the beaten-to-hell dancefloor before the night came crashing to a close.

Brent Hinds of Mastodon

Brent Hinds of Mastodon

This was my third time seeing Mastodon, and the first opportunity I have had to see The Dillinger Escape Plan perform live; thus, to me, it is an example of an incredible metal concert. The shift in energy between the unbridled brutality of Red Fang to the sonic banshee of Dillinger, and finally to the majestic fury of Mastodon, is one that keeps the blood running hellishly hot and gloriously fast, and breaks any form of monotony seen in metal shows that slap several similar-sounding bands together on one bill. I was awed by the unyielding insanity of Dillinger, which outdoes any form of recording I have heard or witnessed, and simultaneously enthralled by the levels of musicianship that Mastodon has arrived at with their new work. It is safe to say that these are the acts to usher in a new world of metal, and I highly encourage anyone still unsure about introducing themselves to this wild world of evil music to seek them out, and immerse yourself in the chaos.

Mastodon's setlist, page 1

Mastodon's setlist, page 1

Mastodon's setlist, page 2

Mastodon's setlist, page 2

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sal November 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Superb review and images. You captured last night’s epic events perfectly.

Thank You

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