Every band had its core followers rushing up front for their performances. Matt Pike, High on Fire's guitarist and vocalist, dominated the stage like a man possessed, feeding off said fans' energy and returning it back with his trademark growly vocals and expert heavy riffage on his guitar.
For a band that usually headlines sub-800 person venues, these metal veterans knew how to dominate the San Jose arena.
Thirty minutes after High on Fire's set ended, Converge emerged to crush the crowd. And crush they did, with their mix of hardcore and complex metal rhythms, earning the trademark "metalcore."
They're a band that Mastodon, the co-headliner, has stated as an influence; and it was easy to see why.
Jake Bannon screamed the vocals with genuine desperation, flailing about the stage for the entirety of their 30-minute set.
The bassist, Nate Newton, was not far behind in the aerobic category -- this has got the be the most physically active band on the planet. That energy rubbed off on the crowd, ushering in a mosh-pit, which visibly garnered the approval of Bannon.
As expected, the crowd doubled in size after Converge's set; as most fans were there for the co-headliners. Being a 36-year-old metal fan, I loved witnessing the vast number of youngsters -- many donning Slayer hats, Children of Bodom T-shirts and genuinely into the music they came to see and hear.
Fans of Mastodon who didn't know what to expect (like me) were greatly surprised. The band played their latest album, Crack the Skye, in its entirety with full visual projections to accompany each song.
Their latest is a concept album, and the visuals supported this by portraying psychedelic visions of out-of-body experiences of a character that is trying to find his way home - pretty complex stuff to describe here, but let's just say that the band’s complex musicianship and epically building song structures meshed perfectly with the visuals. A full-on sensory overload of the best kind!
The show ended with a 60-minute set from Dethklok, the "cartoon death metal band" fronted by Brendan Small, creator of said cartoon, Metalocalypse.
It must have been odd for fans to witness three bands fronted by long-haired and/or tattooed axe-weilders; and then have Dethklok emerge as four clean-cut dudes who look more like dot-commers. After all, Small is really just a fan of this genre and was basically called into touring by the cartoon's popularity. But, once the music started, the cookie-monster-style vocals and heavy riffage overtook everybody's pre-conceived notions.
Dethklok also incorporated visuals for each song, but each one was precisely timed to the live music, with the cartoon band being projected and "playing" along with the real band on-stage, to humorous, yet crushing, tunes like "Murmaider" and "Pull the Plug."
The result was perfect for the crowd. The old metal fans could stand back and laugh at the in-joke-heavy metal cartoons; while the sub-21-year-olds were enticed to throw up the trademark devil-horns and push their way up front to the mosh pit. Not band for a "cartoon band!"
The 4.5-hour metal fest ended with Dethklok and Mastodon on stage in the light profusely thanking the road crew and crowd; saying a final goodbye to all, as this was the last stop on the crushing seven-week tour.
Thank you Metalocalypse, for an original night of some of the world’s best death metal with a full helping of fun videos on the side.