Mastodon/Between the Buried and Me/Baroness/Valient Thorr

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, April 30, 2010

Mastodon has gotten much bigger than some people could have ever expected. The sludge/progressive metal band has been one of the few that decided to sign with a major label (Warner Brothers) and has been building up a fairly sizable fan base. So when the group came to Rams Head Live in Baltimore I expected that there would be a decent turn out. Mastodon brought along Between the Buried and Me, Baroness, and Valient Thorr with them on tour and this definitely gave attendees a fairly eclectic concert.

Unfortunately we hit a little bit of traffic on the way up to Baltimore and were only able to catch half of Valient Thorr’s set (and were also unable to take any photographs). I had seen the group perform way back in 2005 when they were part of the Van’s Warped Tour and I remembered them being a decent and energetic act that was fun to watch but didn’t really make as big of an impact on me as I had hoped. Since that time they have released two more albums, each of which has gotten better and offered even more groove heavy, and this was definitely present in their live set. Although they are still not the type of band that I would go to a show specifically for, their music is enjoyable and for an opening act they are able to draw a decent sized crowd. For whatever reason Valient Torr’s albums still feel more memorable than their live performance, but they do seem to be getting better as they move forward which is nice to see.

It isn’t that surprising to see Baroness supporting Mastodon, as both bands came from Georgia and have been part of the same music scene for quite some time now. While both acts have sludge metal roots they have gone off in different directions as Baroness has maintained some of their sludge roots while also heading off into a more melodic rock style. The group’s newest release Blue Record was able to break into the Billboard charts and has certainly helped them to appeal to a wider audience, and this was apparent as the crowd had grown by quite a bit as they took the stage. As soon as the band took the stage, they immediately started playing without saying a word to the crowd. While this doesn’t always work, for Baroness it proved to be a good decision as it gave them more time to play their material and really get the crowd into it. Vocalist John Baizley sounds great live and brings a ton of energy to the table, and it seemed likely that anyone that watched Baroness’ set came away with an appreciation for them.

Between the Buried and Me was up next, and they were easily the most eclectic band on the tour. The group mixes elements of metalcore, progressive metal and even traditional death metal into their material and their songs are often very long and unpredictable. Because of the long song lengths, even though the group was given at least 45 minutes to play they performed only four or five songs. Although I wasn’t sure how the crowd was going to react to the band because of the fact that they often move from very fast, heavy material to very soft melodies but they really got into it. Singer Tommy Giles Roger is very impressive on stage as he is not only able to transition between harsh screams/growls and clean singing flawlessly but he does so while playing keyboards and running around the stage. The instrumentals were also very impressive and despite the lengths of the songs I never once found myself feeling bored or ready for the set to end. Between the Buried and Me have an immense amount of energy live and come highly recommended.

I can’t claim to be the biggest fan of Mastodon due to the fact that their clean vocals in recent years have been a little too whiny for my tastes, but I was willing to give them a chance in a live setting. The band certainly started off very impressive as they were very loud and energetic and had a screen behind them that was displaying a wide variety of different imagery as the group played. The focus of the group’s set was on material from their newest album Crack the Skye and they also played a number of older tracks that the audience knew very well. However, in a live setting I found the lead vocals to be even whinier than they were on album so even though the instrumentals were stellar I still had a little bit of trouble getting into the material. This is likely a personal preference on my part, so it is safe to say that if you’ve enjoyed their albums that you will absolutely love them live.

Photos by Chip Tamplin (Bands Listed in Alphabetical Order):

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