The audience is usually pretty sparse for the opening act of a multi-band concert, especially one starting at 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, but fans packed the house early for this hard-rocking triple bill. And rightfully so, as this highly anticipated show featured great diversity for a metal gig.
Ghost wasn’t the typical warm-up band, with five of the six members wearing dark, hooded robes and frontman Papa Emeritus resembling a satanic cardinal with skull makeup. Despite their ominous appearance and song titles such as “Death Knell” and “Satan Prayer,” Ghost’s sound was more akin to Blue Oyster Cult than Morbid Angel. Emeritus’ theatrics and surprisingly rich voice spellbound the crowd, which delighted at the rare opportunity to see the Swedish cult rockers.
Co-headliner Opeth, also from Sweden, started in 1990 as a death-metal group but has shifted to a more prog-rock direction in recent years. Newer songs such as “I Feel the Dark” and “Folklore” sounded like a mash-up of Jethro Tull and King Crimson, complete with odd time signatures and exploratory soloing. Singer/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt performed his vocals cleanly for most of the set, showing off a rich, vibrant voice, but reverted back to a guttural approach for closers “Demon of the Fall” and “The Grand Conjuration.”
That paved the way for the full frontal-lobe assault of Mastodon, the greatest metal band of this generation. Combining the best of ’70s prog rock and ’80s thrash, Mastodon’s 17-song set included nearly every track off of the Atlanta rockers’ most recent release, The Hunter. Drummer Brann Dailor powered “Blasteroid” and “Dry Bone Valley” with lightning-quick dexterity and precision, while guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher provided soaring riffs that highlighted the band’s move away from its sludge-rock origins. Mastodon dipped into its past with blistering renditions of “Aqua Dementia” and “Blood and Thunder” from 2004’s seminal Leviathan, before closing with the soaring, expansive “The Sparrow,” ending a show that will rate as one of the year’s finest. ★★★★★