For heavy metal band Mastodon, 2011’s release of its fifth studio album, The Hunter, was big. It helped propel the band further up the ranks of mainstream metal, earning highly positive acclaim from many major music critics. While Mastodon has yet to divulge much information about the release of its next album, the band played a handful of fan-favorites at the Cleveland House of Blues on its tour with an aging Machine Head. The show made for a night filled with fuzz, be it from the grizzled scalps and chins of most present or the ever-distorted tones that blared from the stage speakers.
After the twenty-minute lull for the stage crew to clear away Machine Head’s stuff — the heavy looking “MH” flag staffs and giant cube structures that flanked their stage didn’t really add much in terms of presence — Mastodon took the stage to thunderous applause from the dark, sweaty pit. Very unlike the band that had preceded them, Mastodon said nothing as it interacted with its audience before opening its show with “The Hunter.” But the interesting — and metal — thing about the band was how none of the members said a SINGLE WORD before after the last note of their last song, “The Sparrow.” Adding to the band’s metal cred was how lion-like lead singer Troy Sanders looked with his heavy mane and two-pronged beard. Even so, the band’s show was all about the music, and it was far from disappointing; their hour and a half of powerful heavy metal had many a head thrashing and “devil horns” raised high.
As a band that’s been around since 1991, Machine Head has a lot to be thankful for as its brand of thrash metal has stayed moderately popular to this point. Head vocalist Robb Flynn made it known as he frivolously thanked his supporters — which, surprisingly, seemed to turn out in droves — before heartfelt songs like “Darkness Within.” While members of Machine Head showed that they still have the chops to rock faces with complicated sounding solos, the stark contrast in attitudes between Machine Head and Mastodon made the former seem much less tough, and it kind of detracted from their set as a whole. Even before seeing Mastodon’s nonchalant stage presence, it seemed as though the members of Machine Head were more focused on looking cool and relevant than they were involved with the music that they played.