MASTODON with SLAYER , LAMB OF GOD and CHILDREN OF BODOMas part of the Unholy Alliance Tour at Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), Tuesday (July 4), 5:30 pm. $39.50-$49.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
The guys in Mastodon sure as hell don't do anything in a half-assed way. In fact, for the popular Atlanta-based progressive metal band, bigger, louder and longer is always the best way to rock out on tour, and live in general. After speaking to drummer Bränn Dailor before their show in Houston with Slayer and Lamb of God, I get the feeling that I wouldn't last two days partying with him and his mates, guitarists/vocalists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders - and they've been doing it for a year and a half straight. Dailor explains the band's monolithic work/party ethic.
"We basically take time off to write albums and record them, but aside from that, we really haven't had much of a break. That's the best part, though, travelling and playing live."
You could say their tour schedule is like a mythological saga, a heavy metal version of Homer's Odyssey, that had them play alongside Queens of the Stone Age, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Slipknot and the legendary Iron Maiden, to name a few. According to Dailor, it's left him and his bandmates completely exhausted.
Hailed as founders of a new generation of metal, thanks in part to their 2004 concept album Leviathan, a raging, epic slab based on Melville's Moby Dick, they've been in the spotlight for a while (they formed in 2000). Maybe that's why Dailor isn't all that talkative. His one-word answers suggest he's been asked some of my questions dozens of times.
"Yes, it's fun playing with Slayer. They're awesome," he says, but what I really wanna know is how they expect to top the dense layers of Leviathan with their upcoming late-summer release, Blood Mountain. Dailor tells me the record took time to develop and bloom, since the band's didn't want to just rehash old ideas.
"It's kind of like a breakup with a girlfriend. You need a couple of months before you can start something new."
The new album will be different - "about two years' different" says Dailor. "It seems a lot crazier, with lots of riffs and parts. We realized it was all fuckin' hard to play."
And the band isn't about to shy away from another mammoth narrative to carry the music.
"Basically it's about climbing a mountain and all the creatures you'd meet along the way. We write a lot better when there's something for us to rally around and concentrate on, so we asked questions, like what are you doing on a mountain? Chewing on roots and hallucinating? Then you're on the top starving."
Maybe the constant demands of their job can be credited for the awesome imagery these guys weave into their music.
"There's also a crystal skull involved, and a lizard brain," Dailor reveals as a parting note.