A sea of people clad in black piled into the O2 Southampton Guild Hall to witness a night of riff fuelled metal as Mastodon were set to steamroll through the city.
Starting things off to a modest crowd, was Mutoid Man (3/5) who launched into a blistering assault of riffs and groovy drums from the moment guitarist and vocalist Stephen Brodsky proclaimed, “What’s up Southampton”. Even without regular drummer Ben Koller, the trio smashed through their set with Cheshire cat grins on their faces – and flipping each other the bird periodically. However, it did seem as soon as Mutoid Man had started their set was over and the three-piece was walking off stage.
As the lights go down on the Guildhall stage once more the room is filled with the sound of a single guitar ringing out. As each member of Kvelertak (4/5) walks out on to the stage the anticipation grows.
Even though vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen only replaced founding member Erlend Hjelvik in the summer of 2018, the uneducated would be none the wiser, as he threw himself around the stage like he had been doing this for years. All three of the Norwegian band’s guitarists took the limelight as shredding riffs reverberated off the walls of the venue during songs like ‘Blodtørst’ and ‘1985’.
There was barely a moment to breathe between transition for the band, but there is one thing that Kvelertak do better than most, and that is to create a party atmosphere and make you want to shamelessly air guitar throughout the entire set.
As Gene Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ plays out, it provides a strange juxtaposition to the mammoth that is Mastodon (3/5) who are about to take to the stage. Rattling through ‘Iron Tusk’, ‘March’ and ‘Motherpuncher’ without as much as a blink of an eye, the quartet were showcasing why they are mammoths of the genre from the start.
With an instrumental break which just sounded huge, allowing all four members of Mastodon to show what they are capable early in the set, this was clearly going to be a lesson in heavy music for the spectators.
By the time drummer, Brann Dailor took over vocal duties on ‘Steambreather’, the band were already in full swing, with a trippy psychedelic backdrop and all. The towering digital screens played a plethora of psychedelic imagery pulsating to the riffs down below and seemed to match the imagery of the track they were playing according to what record it appeared on.
The set started to drag a little in the middle, but the band breath new life into their music by welcoming Neurosis’ Scott Kelly to join bassist Troy Sanders on vocal duties for the last seven songs. The Neurosis man’s vocals play a nice juxtaposition to Sanders, whose grimacing face screams of the effort and energy this colossal is for the band.
By the time Mastodon reach ‘Blood and Thunder’, there is a bit of riff fatigue from audience members, whose faces have been well and truly melted off.
Words and photos by Tim Birkbeck (@tim_birkbeck)