A few things we learned from Mastodon’s fierce, fantastic showing with Gojira and Kvelertak at the House of Blues on Saturday:
—Mastodon knows how to begin a show. The band launched into their 90-minute set with “Hearts Alive,” a 13-minute Rubik’s Cube of riffs from “Leviathan” that they haven’t played on tour in five years. The song was like the titular beast from the album in question: mammoth, fierce and majestic all at once. It was followed in quick succession by the melodic counterpoint of “Divinations” and the hammer-to-anvil thwack of “Crusher Destroyer,” a three-song opening suite that served as microcosm of a macrocosm sound.
—The pair of songs Mastodon played from their forthcoming album “Once More Round The Sun,” due in June, sounded like a mix of new and old. The first, “Chimes at Midnight,” was reminiscent of the headlong rush of “Spectrelight” but with the more involved guitar interplay characteristic of the band’s early catalog, while “High Road” saw the band building upon the more radio-friendly dynamics of a song like “Curl of the Burl,” with all four bandmembers contributing vocals and drummer Brann Dailor continuing to shine as the best singer of the bunch.
—Speaking of Dailor, the dude is hard to take your eyes off of live. By now, Dailor is well established as one of the best drummers in metal or any other genre, but he still continues to amaze with dizzyingly technical playing that propels the band’s knotty metal rather than consumes it. This is Mastodon in a nutshell: highly progressive playing grounded into songs as immediate as they are elaborate.
—You were in danger of getting carpal tunnel syndrome trying to play air guitar along with the Mastodon. Seriously, “Capillarian Crest” and “Bladecatcher,” in particular, demanded wrist protection.
—Gojira finally got the Vegas reception the band deserves. The French metallers have played here twice before, last October opening for Slayer, where they were met with a largely indifferent response, and supporting In Flames in 2008, where they didn’t fare much better despite strong showings each time. But Mastodon’s crowd was tailor made for this bunch, whose signature guitar string sweeps gave their riffs the harrowing lurch befitting of prime Morbid Angel. When they played the aptly-named”The Heaviest Matter in the Universe,” its title didn’t seem hyperbolic, which helped compensate for the fact that the opening guitar lines of “L’Enfant Sauvage” sounded completely cribbed from Refused’s “New Noise.”
—Kvelertak’s Vegas debut was a rager. The Norwegian death n’ roll six-piece battered the crowd with beer guts and blast beats, their sound sampling the bawdy rock ‘n’ roll bombast of country mates Turbonegro shot through with touches of black metal velocity and drumming. Thoughout their seven-song, 30-minute set, frontman Erlend Hjelvik frequently spat in the air and then captured the goo in his palms, which was gross, but fitting: a sound of this exquisite raucousness demanded that hands got dirty.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at email@example.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.