Cartoon death metal band sprung to life? Like a blackened Spinal Tap, Dethklok is an imaginary musical endeavor, but also can be a living and breathing entity on stage. Borne of Adult Swim's Metalocalpyse show, the death metal band (headed in real life by Brendon Small, who writes the music and is the band leader) invited three other leading voices of modern metal for a full US tour. I was a bit surprised to see High on Fire open the show, and figured it was a doff of the cap to local heroes Converge. Despite the very early start time of 6:30, Matt Pike and company played to a surprisingly robust crowd, who reveled in the Gygax-fuelled metal fantasies of war, pestilence, combat, and pain. Pike's taken a much more febrile musical approach after Sleep, and he's a totally captivating presence on stage, deeply-inked, pacing, grimacing, sweating, howling. New song "Frosthammer" sat comfortably among older material like "Blood From Zion" and live staples "Fury Whip" and "Rumors of War." I missed hearing the tribal stomp of "Death Is This Communion" but playing first on a four band bill means sacrifices must be made.
Converge were playing some songs from the just-released Axe To Fall, out now on Epitaph, and I thought that the Boston crowd would be lending more visible support to them than what actually happened...earlier this year at the Scion Rock Fest they had the upstairs of the Masquerade packed with a sweaty, surging and surfing crowd, but tonight it was far more subdued. Jake Bannon's throaty screams and mic cord whip attacks and Nate Newton's bass riffage couldn't lift the material from the dull roar level. Mastodon, surprisingly to me, were up next and they pretty much played the same set from the earlier show in May - all of Crack The Skye and a few off their previous records. I really prefer Leviathan to the new record, but 'Sea Beast' nor 'I Am Ahab' nor 'Iron Tusk' were played, and for all the prog rock tags applied to Skye, it's surprising to see Brann Dailor's drumming get less intricate. They ended on a positive note, their contribution to the 2005 Melvins' tribute record We Reach being "The Bit" and it sounded great. While technically Dethklok sounded sharp as a scalpel and were well-matched with the screen visuals, not being able to hear the lyrics in the mix was a disadvantage, and as I'm not an Adult Swim junkie, I wasn't in on the joke to start with.
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