CONCERT REVIEW: Mastodon – Opeth – Khemmis Live At The Masonic


The Masonic Temple is one of the most outstanding buildings in Midtown Detroit. The regal Neo-Gothic architecture and cathedral-like design makes it a prime tourist attraction for Motor City. Part of this historic building’s appeal is the theatre and its massive stage. The stateliness of this structure and the 55 by 100 foot theatre platform made it the perfect pick for Mastodon and Opeth to bring their co-headline tour. The bands rolled into town on a cool Spring evening last week and brought Denver’s own Khemmis with them. Having three currently hot and popular bands under one roof is every modern metalhead’s dream.

Long lines formed shortly after doors opened and many were still strolling in when the first act of the evening broke into song. Khemmis is a young act that has caught the scene’s attention with their Rocky Mountain power and genuine gloom. They ripped into their opening number ‘Avernal Gate’ off their latest album Deceiver (Nuclear Blast) with a feisty fervor. Their scruffy appearance of tight, black jeans and tank tops with long hair and beards gave off a sort of ragamuffin charm. Their no nonsense aesthetic reflects the straightforward, honest sound that is heard in their music. As they played one of their singles, ‘Living Pyre’ the guitars of Ben Hutcherson and Phil Pendergast sang with articulate determination. Each member’s performance exhibited a genuine love of what they do. The dark lyrics, dynamic drudge, and articulated anguish prove why these guys are at the top of the Modern Doom Metal scene. Many were surprised that the band took their final bows just after jamming five songs. Playing such a short set made the crowd hungry for more so it was good that they said they would be back soon.

The stage buzzed with stagehands like busy bees scrambling to get everything in place for the next act. The many hands made light work because the crowd was only able to pound one more beer before the first headliner of the evening. The room ruptured and roared as Opeth took the stage. The band started on a heavy note by opening with a track from their newest album In Cauda Venenum (Moderbolaget Records/Nuclear Blast). ‘Hjärtat vet vad handen gör’ is a tantalizing piece that mixes the proggy side of the band with their raw, rare aggression. The audience was creating such a raucous that genial frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt poked fun and said, “Calm down Detroit, it’s just a show”. They picked a varied range from their catalog by covering some hits like ‘Ghost of Perdition’ and ‘Sorceress’ plus some older numbers like ‘In My Time of Need’. Each piece was accompanied by a visual show of lights and media that transported each person in that theatre. The rigorous and resonating guitar work of Fredrik Åkesson paired perfectly with the fortitude of Martín Méndez’ thunderous bassline which was felt in the floorboards. Åkerfeldt’s calm, confident presence and effortless clean vocals soared and speared into the heart of every onlooker. His ability to delicately capture the sensitive with his storytelling is one of a kind. He then unleashed these gripping growls that harnessed an uncommon intensity which was icing on the cake. The vibrant colors and alluring production allowed everyone to get completely lost in the band’s playing. A true experience of the classic 70’s psychedelic vibe. Each member played with a thoughtfulness, ease, and liveliness. Their technical proficiency was evident by their marvelously meticulous playing. The energy of the crowd increased as more beer was consumed and everyone got riled up for the last number of the night, ‘Deliverance’, the title track off their 2002 masterpiece. The set came to an end with ÅKerfeldt commenting that Detroit did not disappoint.

Up next, the final act of the evening charged onto stage ready to perform, pose, and produce a good show. Mastodon galloped into something heavy right out of the gates by playing ‘Pain with an Anchor’, a track off their most recent record, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records). This current tour is to promote that album and even though they played a lot from it, they jammed a heap of their older material. The guts and groove of the riffs provided by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher cascaded warmly over the rowdy crowd. This tour could easily be nicknamed That 70’s Show with the vivid, animated, and psychedelic visuals that both of the headliners presented. The overdriven guitars meshed with the heavy hum of Troy Sanders’ bass boomed out into the theatre like cannons. Their instrumental piece ‘Bladecatcher’ showed off how varied and zealous yet compelling each member’s skill level is. Main vocalists Sanders and Brann Dailor each wailed in a way that brimmed with angst and heart on numbers like ‘Megalodon’ and ‘Pushing the Tides’. This act is unique in the fact that each member takes turns crooning into the mic and each one is actually a thought provoking, introspective, and articulate presenter of sound. The addition of their Tuomas Holopainen look-alike/wannabe keyboardist added more texture and dimension to their already aggressive sound. The band’s pep, rigor, and genuine enjoyment of playing was well received by all their loud-voiced audience. The night ended on a high note with the group playing a fan favorite, ‘Blood and Thunder’ of their popular album Leviathan (Relapse Records). The historic theatre hosted the evening’s bands well by giving justice to the heavy and elaborate shows presented by these Modern Metal masters.