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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last Night: Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High on Fire

Posted By on Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 8:47 PM

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 entertaining desert.

Critic's Corner

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.

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Dave Pehling


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