By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Two leading lights in progressive heavy music shares stage at Fox Theater in Oakland when Mastodon and Opeth bring their current tandem trip to East Bay on December 2nd.
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The groups can approach the music from different perspectives – Mastodon plays a decidedly heavy mix of metal, hard rock and prog, while Opeth has moved from its progressive black-metal origins to leaving more extreme sounds – but the mating of the modern progressive rock giants make perfect sense.
The Atlanta-based quartet delivers an innovative style of heavy music that draws on elements of hardcore punk, 70s progressive rock and dull 90s metal, and has made its unique style of polishing hard rock for most of two decades .
When former members of the noise-punk band Today is the Day, Brann Dailor (drums) and Bill Kelliher (guitar) met Troy Sanders (bass) and Brent Hinds (guitar) for a High on Fire show in 2000, the musicians discovered, that they had a mutual interest in iconoclastic sludge-rock outfits Neurosis and Melvins as well as the twin-guitar hard rock from Thin Lizzy. Although the band originally had a singer, it was at that time that the group released its debut Blood of life EP on Relapse Records in 2001, the band had trimmed down to its current four-man line-up.
Their first proper album Remission followed a year later and established Mastodon as a force to be reckoned with. Driven by the technically accomplished rage of Dailor (who plays as the original Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, who channels the jazz giant Elvin Jones) and features the labyrinthine riffs prepared by Hinds and Kelliher, the group released one of the most talked about metal albums in 2004 with their highly praised sophomore efforts Leviathan. A conceptual recording that drew inspiration from Melville’s epic “Moby Dick” and Dailors declared love of progressive rock, the pulverizing album topped many year-end “best of” charts and is still hailed as a masterpiece over a decade later.
The band would continue to explore concept albums on the next two recordings and branch out with a wider palette of sounds that embraced psychedelia on the 2006 epic Blood Mountain and its follow-up, the emotional 2009 opus Crack Skye who found that the band went even deeper. Inspired in part by Dailor’s sister’s suicide when she was just 14, the album unfolded an allegorical tale that revolved around astral projection, Stephen Hawking’s wormhole theories, the exploration of the spirit world, and the planned assassination of the mad monk Rasputin in tsarist Russia.
While Mastodon would deviate from the concept album template for their next two efforts to explore a more traditional hard rock sound – 2011’s The hunter and Once again ‘Around the sun in 2014 – the quartet’s 2017 volley for Warner Bros. Records marks a return to using an album to tell a thematic story. A reflection on time and mortality that was heavily influenced by the fight against cancer fought by several friends and family members – including Kelliher’s mother who succumbed to the disease the year before – the album follows the story of the protagonist who has been sentenced to death in a malicious desert of an evil sultan.
Emperor of Sand featuring some of Mastodon’s most intricate and pop-minded vocal performances to date, while still embracing the crushing riffs and complex beats that have become their signature. The effort became the band’s third Top 10 release in a row, ranking high on several Billboard charts, marking Mastodon’s biggest international debut in the group’s career.
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The band faced the same challenges that all music actors did during the pandemic closure of concerts and tours, but the quartet channeled its energies into the recording studio. After publishing the compilation Medium Rarities featuring soundtracks, covers, live tunes and an unreleased new song last year, Mastodon released the extensive 90-minute double-disc set Hushed and Grim – which serves as an epic tribute to former manager Nick John, who died of cancer in 2018 – in the autumn for yet another round of ecstatic reviews.
For their current tour, Mastodon will be joined by other modern prog-metal icons Opeth. During its nearly three decades of existence, the Swedish band has evolved from an experimental death metal to becoming one of the leading exponents of heavy progressive rock. Mikael Åkerfeldt, who was recruited to play bass in the band in 1989 when he was only 16, would end up switching to guitar and taking over lead vocals and conducting from Opeth and expanding his traditional death metal sound with the addition of acoustic guitars and more complex six-string harmonies.
It took the group several staff changes to adjust to the line-up that was to record the band’s debut album Orchid in 1994. With elements of atmospheric folk and progressive rock, the epic songs listened to Orchid (several bells in a good distance over the 10-minute mark) delivered a challenging mix of dynamics and moods as Åkerfeldt’s vocals moved easily from death-metal growl to sonorous croon. Opeth refined his sound and began to establish a reputation as a powerful live act with subsequent albums and tours leading up to the band’s landmark fifth performance in 2001 with the title Blackwater Park which brought the group to a wider audience in the United States.
That album marked Åkerfeldt’s first collaboration with renowned producer, musician and sonic alchemist Steve Wilson (the leader of the modern progressive rock band Porcupine Tree and the best engineer to make 5.1 surround sound mixers for people like Jethro Tull, King Crimson and XTC ). Further explore the guitarist’s love of challenging progressive sounds, the songs on Blackwater Park married to extreme metal intensity with the majesty and drama of Pink Floyd and the Beatles of the last days. Åkerfeldt continued to push the boundaries of Opeth’s follow-up efforts, the accompanying piece of footage Redemption, who stuck to their complex metallic sound and the equally progressive rock release Curse.
Åkerfeldt has continued his daring experiments in gravity, but Opeth left death metal completely after the release of their album from 2008 Watershed. By cultivating a different sound that fully embraced progressive rock as well as elements of electric jazz fusion from the 70s (especially Fender Rhodes electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ employed by Miles Davis and his disciples), Åkerfeldt and the company pursued a new vision beginning with Inheritance in 2011 and continues Pale supper three years later.
Bandets opus 2016 Wizard Focus on the guitarist’s acoustic guitar skills on multiple tracks while continuing to mine a gnarled, dizzying style of heavy progressive rock that nods as much to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath as it does to Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer in its melody. and aggressive attack. The band released another live document recorded during the tour to promote the album – Garden of the Titans: Live at the Red Rocks Amphitheater recorded at the iconic Colorado venue – two years later.
In 2019, Åkerfeldt and the company released their latest effort, the celebrated one Married in the tail (Latin for “Married in the tail”). The album was released in both English and Swedish language versions and was hailed as the crowning achievement of Opeth’s more prog-rock-oriented era. While the band recently underwent a major change when it announced the departure of longtime drummer Martin Axenrot, Finnish drummer Sami Karppinen from the band Therion will fill the current tour with Mastodon.
Opening the show on The Fox is just as daring outfit Zeal & Ardor. Led by Swiss-American guitarist / singer Manuel Gagneux, the experimental group bases its unusual sound on the clash of black metal and gospel and traditional blues. Gagneux received high praise for the group’s powerful debut album from 2016 and its follow-up, Stranger Fruit, two years later.
While working on material for the band’s third album last year, Gagneux felt compelled to put the songwriting on pause and instead focus on the songs for Wake of a Nation EP inspired by George Floyd’s custody death and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. The band’s self-titled third effort is scheduled for release in February next year.
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Mastodont and Opeth with Iver & Ardor
Thursday, December 2 at 19: 59.50- $ 79.50