If you were to tell any random music fan on the street that a tour with the four bands on the "Adult Swim Presents" would be happening, they would say "Oh sure, fuck it. Why not? It's all loud." But that's sort of where the tour planners alternately went wrong and right. These four bands - Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High on Fire - represent four distinct strains of metal, which in turn also come with four groups of disparate fans. If there were open-minded people in the crowd who could dig all four - maybe not equally, but at least respectively on their own merits - Aftermath wants to hug and kiss you.
To give full disclosure, Aftermath completely loves High On Fire, Converge and Mastodon. He never really understood if fictional death-metal band Dethklok, the night's closer, was a legitimate project or some sort of piss-take on a very volatile genre. It just took him last night to fully get what they have been doing, albeit almost three years after their first appearance on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup. Most Houston fans were caught off guard that Thursday's gig at Verizon actually began at 6:30 p.m. and not the city-wide standard of an hour or more later. People who showed up late missed mighty veterans High On Fire from Oakland, Calif. Since stoner legends Sleep disbanded, HOF has been lead singer and guitarist Matt Pike's main project. A HOF set is like standing inside the engine of a jetliner.
Your entire body vibrates and there's strange blasts going on intermittingly. The band only had 40 minutes to run through material from five albums, including the upcoming Snakes for the Divine. It's a shame that people had to miss them, but they are much better inside a small venue such as Walter's, where the band has deafened us for two-day stretches in the past.
Following HOF came Converge, who are usually just a lethal band live but were defanged somewhat with a seven-foot gap and barricade between them and the crowd. Lead singer Jacob Bannon lives on top of the crowd in most cases, screaming his lungs into dust as the collective of kids below do their best meat-grinder impression. Thursday, most people were stunned that they were so loud, and we heard one middle-aged meathead complain that the metalcore pioneers were, in fact, "too loud." The half-ass pit that sprung up, complete with the random pseudo-white-trash skinhead in the middle, made us embarrassed for Houston. We have seen people get maimed at Converge shows. Maybe next time they hit town, they won't get such a brain-dead response, because everything that band releases is amazing. They deserve better than a few hundred yokels going, "They was too fast, pa."
Mastodon hit the stage around 8:30 p.m. to more respectful response than the first two bands. They quickly launched into March's Crack The Skye release, an album which they have been playing in its entirety on this tour. The album is loosely based on the Russian mystic Rasputin, wormholes and various other esoteric meanderings per Mastodon's past modus operandi.
From the first song, "Oblivion," the album is a stunning piece of art-metal, ranging from the most beautifully harsh passages to the most strangling dirges. The band commissioned a film to be shown during the movie, a haunting black-and-white piece that owes a great deal to Benjamin Christensen's 1922 classic Haxan, in addition to various spacey backgrounds. Somewhere towards the end of the Skye cycle, Aftermath got word that his younger brother was nearly choked to death in the crowd and we had to leave our spot to tend to him. Apparently, a Grade-A mook dickhead near the front of the show was walking through the crowd choking people smaller than him, and our brother happened to be in his path. That's what we were getting at earlier. This show didn't bring out the most musically or humanely thinking throng. After nearly 30 minutes in the medic office and then 20 more stalking the audience for said fuckhead sort of harshed our metal high, but we could still hear and see that Mastodon was putting on a gold-star show.
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After Mastodon, all the bored cartoon-watchers and mouth-breathers hurried to the front of the stage, because obviously the three other bands weren't cutting it for them. Dethklok architect Brendon Small has concocted two albums of expert death metal, catchy, hilarious takes on the genre without losing any of its massive weight. We just hope people get into the music behind it rather than simply seeing it as some sort of inane piss-take to blaze one to.
Small and three musicians blasted out songs from their show Metalocalypse as scenes from the show played behind them. The sound was pummeling even at the back of the house, even louder than the Slipknot show we saw at the venue in February. On the walk out, we heard novices complain that "all those bands sucked compared to Dethklok" and that they didn't get "all the screaming." Yeah, you're right, Fourteen Year Old Warcraft Kid and Out Of Touch Prog Metal Guy In A Dream Theater Shirt. They all sucked compared to your animated television show lampooning rock excess in a form palatable for you to be exposed a genre of music that would rip your balls out in reality. But what did Aftermath expect with a stoner-metal band, a metalcore act, a classic rock-influenced jam-metal group, and a heavy metal Gorillaz project inside a room full of people who can't understand diversity? For more pictures from the show, click here for our slideshow. And yes, Craig's brother is OK.