21 September 2009

What remorseless emperor commands me? I no longer govern my soul, Completely immersed in darkness, As I turn my body away from the sun..

I've been seeing a lot of art and culture and shit over the past few months: Romeo Castelluci's interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy in three separate performances - Paradiso, Inferno and Purgatorio, The Reverend Billy (anti-shopping evangelist), PJ Harvey (sadly past her prime), Antony and the Johnsons (one of Salette's faves), a bunch of Shaolin monks choreographed by some European physical theatre/dance legend, and an advance screening of the Yes Men movie, 'The Yes men Fix the World', where we scored a copy of their fake NY times, which was a real coup.

But the highlight of it all has to be finally - FINALLY - getting to see Mastodon at Islington Academy.

Tickets sold out almost immediately and the fucking ticket touts were straight away selling them online for 3 times the face value, c*nts! There really need to be laws against reselling, these bastards hire mobs students to trawl the internet all day long and buy up tickets to shows so they can mark them up and cash in on genuine fans' willingness to pay whatever it costs to see the artists they love. I steadfastly refuse to buy tickets from resellers because no way am I going to perpetuate their mother fucking greed, but I was really torn because I fucking love Mastodon and I missed seeing them last time. Well low and behold, the Heavens opened up like a holy zipper and drenched my face with their divine money shot when Salette surprised me with a ticket the night before the gig as an early birthday present. Are you friggin' kidding me? Just when you thought the most awesome American Girlflen in the whole friggin' world couldn't get anymore awesomer, BAM! she whips out her Spice Weasel and cranks it up a notch. I'm still geeking out about that one.

One a side note, given the sorry state of the British summer, it seems somewhat obvious to spout the old idiom, "it never rains it pours", but around that time I won a free weekend pass (plus camping permit) to the massive Sonisphere metal festival...but I couldn't go. Gggrrr! Would have been good to see Mastodon again and maybe Alice In Chains (sans Lane Staley) but friggin' Metallica were headlining so fuck that.

But I digress...

The Mastodon show was fantastic. After suffering through a truly awful and instantly forgettable cock-rock guitar/drum duo, the second support hit the stage in a flurry of tight jeans, denim vests, scraggly beards and beer bellies. If you've never heard of Valient Thorr, then by Odin's beard you've got to check them out cos' they're absolutely fucking awesome. A 5- or 6-piece (hard to tell, there was so many dudes on stage) old school kick-arse middle-aged metal dudes from Canada who look like that bunch of stoners you knew in high school who were always in a band but were never quite good enough to make it, except these guys got good. Really fucking good. Initially, I dismissed their beer-drinking frat-boy image and light-weight opening number as either party metal or a joke band, but they pulled out better and better material with each song and delivered a really metal performance. They were busting out tasty riffs and crunching melodies and swirling solos from high up on the fret board, whilst all around swirled beardy-weirdy lyrics and solid thumping drums and they totally nailed me. So much so I bought their latest CD from a dude in the hallway for £7 which features a huge bearded cosmic guy with a scythe fighting a gigantic screeching cat/eel monster, dragging it back into the swirling galactic void from which it emerged. Loud, sweaty, hairy and totally metal. Oh yeah!

Mastodon hit the stage in their usual understated fashion: no pretence, no fancy gear or stupid clothes, no between-song banter, no encores, just get up there and play the fuck out of it, all scraggly hair and manky beards and a shit-load of hard-core arse-kicking metal. Seeing these guys live is hard to describe but awesome to behold. The energy and intensity they bring forth makes it seem like they're not so much playing the music as channelling it on behalf of some higher power...like they're conduits for something larger than all of us and it's only their consummate skills as musicians that contains the incredible forces they wield and prevents us all from being consumed in a white-hot conflagration of molten scorching metal. Always a cut above the rest of the pack, with their new album, Crack the Skye, they really have lifted it to the next level. Intricately crafted songs, complex arrangements, unbelievable melodies, solid thematic constructs...such is the power and scope of their music that you can't help but feel elevated and diminished at the same time, like staring into a distant dying sun. They played pretty much all the new album, which just gets better with ever listen, but then after a brief break came back on stage to play 3 or 4 songs from all of their previous albums. All in all they played for about 2 hours, I don't care who you are you won't find better value for your metal dollar than that!

My only regret is they didn't play 'Blood and Thunder', but you can't have everything. But the biggest downer of all is I'm clearly getting too old for this sort of thing as I've lost a noticeable degree of hearing in my right ear as a result of the sonic onslaught I endured. But to quote that guy Tom who got caught perving on Lady Godiva (the eponymous Peeping Tom) and had his eyes burned out by red-hot iron, it was totally fuckin' worth it!