Marching on to Greatness
Mastodon with Labrat @ Camden Underworld, London UK, July 1, 2003
by: Jackie Smit
Tuesday, July 1st, 2003 has hardly been what I would call a good day leading up to my arrival in Camden Town at around 8pm. Running on two hours' sleep -- thanks to my slow-witted housemates' insistence that their television remain at top volume until the early hours -- and with an eight hour work day and a hellacious commute on Hell's answer to public transport behind me, I head in the direction of the Underworld's box office window, politely state my name and tell the woman in charge that I am on the Relapse Records guest list. She briefly scans through a blizzard of paper printouts and shakes her head. "Should I write my name down, in case you didn't hear me correctly?", I offer, knowing that my foreign accent at times confuses the more mentally challenged citizens of the United Kingdom. She ignores me and just shakes her head. Desperately fighting the urge to unleash a salvo of expletives that would make every last layer of make-up on her haggard face peel, I ask whether it would be possible for me to check the guest list to see whether or not a mistake has been made -- I do after all have an e-mail in my inbox confirming that I need not pay the £10 admission fee for tonight's performance. "You can't and you're not on the list, okay!", she scowls and as patient a man as I am, I am now overcome by the virtually irrepressible urge to go make like The Rock and lay the smack down on her pasty behind. Indeed, were it not for the fact that Mastodon's _Remission_ record is one of the truly great releases of 2002, this live review may well never have been written. I fully empathise with the fact that the slack-jawed troglodyte, that has just been (somewhat unsurprisingly) rude to me, has a job to do, but there is such a thing as class. And to prove mine, I will refrain from using my position as writer for the greatest webzine on God's green earth to call her several paragraphs worth of unmentionable names, instead quoting Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and saying: "It's understanding that helps people like me tolerate people like yourself."

So, with my hard-earned slapped begrudgingly on the counter, I enter the venue just as local noise-niks Labrat are about to start their set. I last saw these guys open for Strapping Young Lad, and on that particular evening they played quite possibly one of the worst sets I have ever had to endure. It is therefore ironic that in my present state of mind, they actually end up sounding infinitely better. While I still don't care much for their punkified Cryptopsy / Dillinger Escape Plan concoction, the band does have an undeniable amount of talent and potential -- of particular note being the efforts of drummer Nathan, who absolutely shines on "Clint Eastwood Is Well 'Ard". The aforementioned potential also comes strongly to the fore on closing tune "Two Pigs Fucking", and Labrat leave me thinking that there may well be a decent band hiding beneath their amusingly cocky exterior.

Few bands in the underground currently enjoy the level of adulation that has flooded the world of Atlanta's Mastodon in recent months. And from the first note to their opening attack of "Crusher Destroyer" it is made abundantly clear that they not only intend to justify the hype, but to leave it lying in the dust. Their tri-vocal approach demands action from every stage-front member -- which each serves up by the truckload, never once seeming any less intense than a full-squadron air siege. Even more admirable is the fact that they somehow manage to sound even better on stage than they do on CD -- their performance not only watertight, but bathed in an added layer of atmosphere that bands with ten times Mastodon's profile can only dream of. Slower numbers like "Ol'e Nessie" leave even the most mosh-hungry punters mesmerized, while "Shadows That Move" is heavy enough to outweigh the impact of a mid-scale earthquake. There is honestly nothing that can be faulted with tonight's Mastodon experience -- from their performance, through to their crowd interaction, they are quite simply fantastic from start to finish.

And with a blistering rendition of "March of the Fire Ants" ringing fresh in my ears, I'm smiling again.

(article submitted 13/7/2003)

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