On the evening of November 30th, we were lucky enough to be graced with the presence of some of the godfathers of modern progressive metal, Opeth and Mastodon, along with special guests Zeal & Ardor. They took over the stage at the Mesa Amphitheater, a medium-sized outdoor venue that is a perfect choice for a cool evening in the Arizona fall. The venue charges for parking and only accepts cash for that, so welcome to the 21st century. But fret not! The parking lot attendants are more than happy to direct you to the ATM at the gas station across the street – complete with another transaction fee… but I digress.
Zeal & Ardor kicked off the night with one of the most passionate performances I’ve seen. Not many bands can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up by delivering music straight from their souls. If you’ve never listened to them before, the best way I can describe them is gospel black metal, but less “praise the lord” and more “hail satan.” They performed several of their new songs including “Wake of a Nation” and “Run” which were both released this year. The latter being single from their upcoming self-titled record set to release February 11th, 2022.
Next, Mastodon emerged from the swamp to blast us all away with their psychedelic sludge. And even I’m not sure if I’m referring to the music or the hallucinogens that must inspire it. As they took to the stage the massive LED screens on the backdrop and in front of the risers came to life with trippy images that reflected the content of the music. I especially liked the Kraken images during “Megalodon,” very Cthulhu-chic. Although much of the set was focused on their new album, Hushed and Grim (released October 29th), they managed to work in songs from almost every record in their vast discography. Of course, they had to close the night with crowd favourite “Blood and Thunder,” which inspired one of the few mosh pits of the evening.
Lastly, Opeth was up. They started the night off with the Swedish version of “Heart in Hand” from their most recent record In Cauda Venenum. After that, they dove headfirst into a wonderfully curated review of their evolution over time. They went as far back as to play a song from My Arms, Your Hearse and touched on several other high points in between from their career. It’s good to hear them play a little something for everyone, so there is a tune played for fans of any era of their music. Mikael Akerfeldt entertained the audience between songs with little quips of his cheeky and dry sense of humour that had the audience good and laughing. Because heavy metal is all serious business, you know? As the night came to its unfortunate end, Opeth left us with the lingering sound of one of their most epic songs, “Damnation.” All-in-all it was a great concert and from beginning to end one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
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