By: The Busted Amp Staff
Joseph: Oh, Mastodon. One of the biggest names in metal right now, Mastodon stopped by Cincinnati on their Emperor of Sand tour, an album which I did not like at all. For me.....it's been a long time since I really got into a Mastodon album. I'd say their cold streak for me dates all the way back to 2006's Blood Mountain. So I went into this show skeptical. I was worried that what happened for me on Emperor of Sand, and basically every Mastodon album of the past 10 years was going to happen live. Unfortunately, I was right. Every song sounded the exact same.
It wasn't all bad, however. The night started with an interesting, instrument-only band called Russian Circles. A band which I would never see as a headliner, but was a really solid opening salvo for the heavy rock evening. While many love the "experience" that comes with watching an instrument-only heavy metal band, I am not necessarily one of them, so I got a little bored as their set wore on. Fortunately, because they were the opener, their set was short and sweet, hence why it was a solid way to wet our rocketites. (Get it? Rock appetite? I'll see myself out)
After Russian Circles, though, came the entire reason I personally was there: Eagles of Death Metal. One of my favorite bands in existence, and first time I've seen them live since they were the headliner at Le Bataclan on November 13, 2015, Eagles of Death Metal tore the roof off the Taft Theatre, tearing through a criminally short 50 minute set. The set offered something of a bit of closure for me. The terrorist attacks back in 2015 struck a nerve with me as both Derek and myself had seen the band just a few months before that, but it was truly uplifting to see the band rocking and rolling once more. I have no qualms when I say I wish Mastodon had opened for Eagles of Death Metal and not the other way around. Oh and Brent Hinds from Mastodon opened the Eagles of Death Metal set with them on guitar. That was pretty cool.
After Eagles of Death Metal came Mastodon. The set started out strong with the band playing several tracks off of Blood Mountain and keeping things diverse, however after their performance of 2006's "Colony of Birchmen," things started to fall apart. Every song sounded exactly the same. It was impossible to differentiate these songs, and the overall set declined pretty rapidly in the second half. Sadly, by the end of the set, I was just happy for it to be over. There's no doubt that Mastodon is a great heavy metal band, and perfect for hour-long sets at a music festival. But their material is just too similar for an enjoyable 90 minute headlining set. And there was no encore, which was kind of weird. The band played "March of the Fire Ants" and was like, "Ok! We're done here! Thanks for coming!" While this is a trademark of the band, it's still pretty jarring for a regular concert goer. I like being able to take a breath and prepare for an epic encore. Ultimately, while I'm glad I can officially check Mastodon of the list as "seen them," I really wish I had seen them open for Eagles of Death Metal. Or on the farm at Bonnaroo. But, beggars can't be choosers.
Derek: If you were to name a group of bands that I discovered solely from Rock Band, Mastodon is probably at the very top of that list. To this day, "Colony of Birchman" is one of my favorite songs to play, and I was more than excited to see them live. The problem with seeing a band like Mastodon at Taft Theatre is obvious once you enter through one of the four doors at look around the famous Art Deco room. The main theater is entirely seated. For a band like Mastodon to play there, with no room for jumping around and yes, moshing, it creates quite the disconnect of energy. I was hesitant to buy tickets for this very reason, but because of Rock on the Range, the hard rock and metal festival in Columbus, the last time Mastodon performed in Cincinnati was over ten years ago at Bogart's. Add to this a few consecutive sub-par albums (even though I enjoyed Emperor of Sand much more than Joseph), and there was a real feeling of urgency to see them before their prime is too far in the rearview mirror.
The mix of songs were about what I expected. They played the majority of Emperor of Sand and five tracks from Blood Mountain. The rest of the set was a peppering of songs from their other five albums. In hindsight, I'm glad they played a good amount from Blood Mountain, my personal favorite, but I can't help but wish there was less Emperor of Sand, because it really played into the issue that Joseph stated above. A lot of the songs from that album sound too similar to create an engaging show. I found myself watching individual band members perform and day dreaming, whether it was Brett Hinds barely opening his mouth as he growled his vocals or Brann Dailor's amazing drum fills, something that made Mastodon's songs so enjoyable on Rock Band. Everything about the second half of the set played against the casual metal fan, which was most certainly us. The individual instrumental performances were there, but the show dragged on after a while.
For me, the show can be summed up with a series of maybes. Maybe it would have been different in a general admission theater. Maybe if people were allowed to move around instead of being stuck in their seats there would have been more energy. Maybe if the ushers didn't scold concertgoers for having half a foot in the aisle it would have made for a better vibe. Maybe when you have a metal show at Taft Theatre you don't put two extra rows of folding chairs in the front and call them "pit seats". Maybe.
Rock on, dudes.
The Wolf Is Loose
Colony of Birchman
Chimas at Midnight
Circle of Cysguatch
March of the Fire Ants
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: