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Sydney prog adventurers Breaking Orbit are clever gents. To a fault? Arguably. Your mileage may vary, depending on whether your relationship with sprawling, percussively-driven and carefully mapped-out metal is one of appreciation or tolerance. The quartet put so much into their performances that it’s bound to push either to a boiling point and their set this evening proved to be no exception. The opportunity to showcase their atmospheric wizardry to one of their larger crowds to date was not something that was lost on the band, and nor was it wasted. Tried-and-true selections from their debut album, 2012’s The Time Traveller, maintained their spark from when they were first released; while previews of their upcoming May album, Transcension, alluded to it eclipsing its predecessor entirely. Ultimately, Breaking Orbit proved to be a smart choice to warm up the audience – whether it was the duelling drum solos or the bombastic solos, the band made every moment count.
In spite of several festival appearances and a particularly high-profile support slot on their maiden voyage (one word, people: SLAYERRRRRR), this evening marked the first official headlining show that Mastodon had ever played in Sydney. Although the selection of Luna Park’s Big Top was somewhat ill-fitting – on account of both size and location, as well as the terrified-looking children gawking at the black-clad masses on the way in – it was something the band merely took in their stride. This ain’t their first rodeo, after all, with fifteen years under their belt, this is a band that knows exactly how to get their audiences on their side. Not that this was a crowd that needed much of an invitation, mind you.
Each introductory signal – the rolling snare drum of The Motherload, the banjo riffage of Incantations, the dozens of snarling, authoritative riffs provided by Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds – were met with howls of approval. A focus was drawn to last year’s Once More ‘Round the Sun, which was not out when the band were last in the country as a part of Soundwave a year prior. It was great to hear a substantial portion of the record for the first time, particularly the (ahem) scorching Ember City and the Grammy-nominated High Road. It should be stressed, however, that the inclination towards material from Once More was not at the expense of other moments in the band’s extensive canon – there were cuts from every Mastodon album to date, which satiated followers from all stages of their career.
Rolling out a big finale in the form of Blood and Thunder, Mastodon delivered a meaty, muscular set that cemented their status as one of the liveliest and loudest metal bands you’re likely to encounter. It’s a reputation that’s not likely to be shaken anytime soon – beside, what other band is so metal that they can leave their audience walking out in arms, belting out Rainbow Connection at the top of their lungs?