Mastodon @ Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 16th February 2010


Mastodon return to Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall on this chilly Tuesday evening in support of last year’s album “Crack The Skye”, and how do they support it?  By playing the album in its entirety!  If you didn’t know the album before, then you knew it by the time the main set ended.

Atlanta, Georgia’s Mastodon are usually a four-piece – Troy Sanders on bass and vocals (centre stage), Brent Hinds on guitar and vocals (stage right), Bill Kelliher on guitar and vocals (stage left) and Brann Dailor on drums and backing vocals (sat in the usual drummer position) – but they’re touring with keyboard player Rich Morris (so stage right that I can barely see him), which really helps them fill out the sound that they created in the studio whilst recording “Crack The Skye”.

They walk on to the mostly dark stage and immediately begin album opener “Oblivion”.  Mastodon have decided to leave the cloth band-logo backdrop at home on this tour, and have opted for the giant LED screen option, showing short movies along with the songs.  The movies help set the scene for the concept of “Crack The Skye”:  the art aesthetics of Tsarist Russia, astral travel, out of body experiences and Stephen Hawking’s theories on wormholes.  Wow.  At a Metal show.  In Wolverhampton…  Although the movie screen backdrop is not a new concept at Metal shows, I never know whether I should be watching the movies or watching the band.  I suspect that most people, like me, switched between the two during the evening.


“Crack The Skye” progresses in typical Mastodon fashion – some long songs, some long instrumental passages, but lots of ultra-technical instrumentation and chugging riffs, vocal harmonies, speed switches and changes in time signatures.  “The Czar” (a song made up of four shorter passages) and “The Last Baron” are both over 10 minutes in length, yet the band are obviously well rehearsed, as all the songs are played perfectly, with some kind of sixth sense keeping them in time with each other.  Unfortunately for me (and the guys from Napalm Death) at the back of the venue, some of the technical sections become muddy due to the not-so-perfect sound, although I understand that it sounded better nearer the stage.

My other “issue” with Mastodon is that due to their technical abilities, some songs lack a groove to nod your head or tap your foot to.  This means that the audience tonight was mostly motionless. When a groove did kick in, the crowd would start banging their heads until the song became a little more complicated and they had to stop.

Steve Gerrard PhotographySteve Gerrard Photography

Main set closer “The Last Baron” finishes with a massive Heavy Metal ending, and the band leave the stage. As the roadies do their equipment checks, the crowd are entertained by Morris with a keyboard solo, and the crowd show their appreciation by stocking up on beer or emptying their bladders.

The remainder of the evening is made up of a not-so-greatest-hits set, made up of tracks from their three other full length outings.  A nice touch to accompany these songs is that the background shows an animated version of the album artwork that the song comes from.  Fan favourites “Iron Tusk” and “March Of The Fire Ants” conclude the encore, and the crowd shows their appreciation as the band come to the front of the stage for their curtain call.  Dailor finally is the first to acknowledge the audience on mic with a very simple “Thank you Wolverhampton”.


As the crowd leave, I can’t help but think that some of them are disappointed that some of their other “big” tracks haven’t been played, such as the massive album openers “Blood And Thunder” and “The Wolf Is Loose”, and the shortness of the sub-80 minute set.

Set list (Crack The Skye):
The Czar (Usurper / Escape / Martyr / Spiral)
Ghost Of Karelia
Crack The Skye
The Last Baron

Circle Of Cysquatch (from 2006’s “Blood Mountain”)
Aqua Dementia (from 2004’s “Leviathan”)
Where Strides The Behemoth (from 2002’s “Remission”)
Mother Puncher (from 2002’s “Remission”)
Iron Tusk (from 2004’s “Leviathan”)
March of the Fire Ants (from 2002’s “Remission”)

Review Tony Hackett
Photos Steve Gerrard

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2 thoughts on “Mastodon @ Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 16th February 2010

  1. How can anybody leave dissapointed after hearing probably the most talented band since Metallica, so technically brilliant and different from all the mainstream cack out there. I left the venue with a huge smile and ringing ears after watching one of the best gigs for years.

  2. Cool review Tony,although I was one of the ones like Steve above who thought it was one of the best gigs in years. I think Crack the Skye is truly their apex of the career so far, and to see it played in its entirity was worth a million Blood & Thunders to me. BUT, is always good to read a review from a different perspective to mine – I’d have just spent a couple of thousand words fawning over them and lobbing beard praise in their general direction. Ace pics too Steve!

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