By: Joseph Kathmann
Let's address the elephant in the room first: yes, I like Avenged Sevenfold. While the band has tapered off significantly in my opinion on their last two albums, The Stage and Hail to the King, there was a time back in the 2000s when the group was on top of the rock 'n' roll world for me, churning out hits from classic LPs like Waking the Fallen and 2005's City of Evil. The latter got me into Avenged Sevenfold initially, and is one of my favorite albums from that decade. I have many personal memories connected with the band's music, from jamming out to them on break while working the Kings Island Halloween Haunt back in 2008 to having a blast with the instrumentation on various iterations of Rock Band. Unfortunately for me, the feeling of nostalgia has not caught up to the band just yet.
Before we get to the crap shoot that was Avenged Sevenfold, let's talk about the opener, Volbeat. I knew very little about the band going into their set other than the fact that they are far more relevant in the metal world today than Avenged Sevenfold is. It showed-there were almost as many Volbeat shirts in the audience as there were Avenged Sevenfold shirts, and many of those Volbeat shirts disappeared after their set. (I can't hardly blame them either) While I dug their interesting mix of Irish punk music and heavy metal, and could (mostly) appreciate the vocals of frontman Michael Poulsen, the band was otherwise pretty lifeless. It may have been the timing-the band is right in the middle of a massive, nation-wide tour with Avenged Sevenfold, and the Cincy date probably felt tacked on to them because the other band on the tour, Metallica, had to skip out on the date because of Rock on the Range's proximity clause. Regardless, the band's lack of energy combined with a similarity in most of their music made every song in this set sound pretty much the same to me. They had an extended set, too, (because of Metallica's absence) so when their hour long set was done, I was ready to move on. Unfortunately, it proved to be the highlight of the night.
I was hopeful that I was going to have a fun, nostalgia-filled set going into this show. I did lower my expectations significantly when I checked the setlist and saw a total of 3 to 4 songs from their glory years, and tonight proved to be no different: almost the entire set consisted of tracks off their recent albums. I don't mind hearing new material-if a band's on tour to promote a new album, they're going to promote it. But do we really need 11 tracks off your two most recent albums? There were several times, particularly towards the end of the set when the band forced the last two tracks off Hail to the King down our throats, that the crowd was bored out of their minds. The talking around me was louder than the music, which is saying something because it was a freaking metal show. The last two songs were a complete waste of time, time that could've been spent playing tracks their fans actually wanted to hear. And that doesn't even include the totally unnecessary "drum solo" and instrumental jam that took up 10+ minutes of the band's 80 minute set. Seriously? Why waste time on a drum solo when you have seven studio albums under your belt?
The band seems to be in cruise control right now, outside of guitarist Synyster Gates, (who is still an absolute boss and can rip any guitar to shreds) which is a shame because most of these guys are still in their mid-30s. A good example of this lack of care for basically anything occurred during "So Far Away." The band has made that song the tribute song for The Rev, and during the song the band had pictures of the great drummer on the video screen behind them. Touching, right? Until the slideshow looped after exactly five photos. Really, guys? That's all you could muster up? Five photos of The Rev? I guess cameras weren't invented until 2010. Of course this made the slideshow feel half-assed as it looped 45 times during the song. Overall, though, the problems seem to really fall on vocalist M. Shadows. Undeniably the weakest part of the band, Shadows spent most of the set pulling a Jared Leto and having the crowd sing most of his parts. Why is this even a thing? I'm all for audience participation every once in a while from the vocalist, but we paid money to hear you sing, not us. All of this would've probably been forgiven had the song selection been better, but outside of some of their classic singles, which still sound good today because of how young the band is, the set was a frustrating snooze-fest. The dude next to me, who pounded almost 100 ounces of beer in the span of two hours, was more entertaining than Avenged Sevenfold. (Hopefully he's ok....he was obviously stumbling pretty good by the end of the night.) Only in the encore, which featured a personal favorite in "Bat Country" then a rendition of another strong tune "A Little Piece of Heaven," did the band sound like the Avenged Sevenfold I was hoping to see. (There was also a hilariously staged proposal in there but whatever, that's irrelevant) It looks like we still have a few more years until the band realizes that their golden years are behind them and embraces that fact versus trying to fight it. For now, though, avoid this show like the plague. Not even an over-the-hill Metallica could save it.
Hail to the King
So Far Away
Warmness on the Soul (Instrumental Jam)
A Little Piece of Heaven
By: The Busted Amp Staff
Joseph: Oh, Mastodon. One of the biggest names in metal right now, Mastodon stopped by Cincinnati on their Emperor of Sand tour, an album which I did not like at all. For me.....it's been a long time since I really got into a Mastodon album. I'd say their cold streak for me dates all the way back to 2006's Blood Mountain. So I went into this show skeptical. I was worried that what happened for me on Emperor of Sand, and basically every Mastodon album of the past 10 years was going to happen live. Unfortunately, I was right. Every song sounded the exact same.
It wasn't all bad, however. The night started with an interesting, instrument-only band called Russian Circles. A band which I would never see as a headliner, but was a really solid opening salvo for the heavy rock evening. While many love the "experience" that comes with watching an instrument-only heavy metal band, I am not necessarily one of them, so I got a little bored as their set wore on. Fortunately, because they were the opener, their set was short and sweet, hence why it was a solid way to wet our rocketites. (Get it? Rock appetite? I'll see myself out)
After Russian Circles, though, came the entire reason I personally was there: Eagles of Death Metal. One of my favorite bands in existence, and first time I've seen them live since they were the headliner at Le Bataclan on November 13, 2015, Eagles of Death Metal tore the roof off the Taft Theatre, tearing through a criminally short 50 minute set. The set offered something of a bit of closure for me. The terrorist attacks back in 2015 struck a nerve with me as both Derek and myself had seen the band just a few months before that, but it was truly uplifting to see the band rocking and rolling once more. I have no qualms when I say I wish Mastodon had opened for Eagles of Death Metal and not the other way around. Oh and Brent Hinds from Mastodon opened the Eagles of Death Metal set with them on guitar. That was pretty cool.
After Eagles of Death Metal came Mastodon. The set started out strong with the band playing several tracks off of Blood Mountain and keeping things diverse, however after their performance of 2006's "Colony of Birchmen," things started to fall apart. Every song sounded exactly the same. It was impossible to differentiate these songs, and the overall set declined pretty rapidly in the second half. Sadly, by the end of the set, I was just happy for it to be over. There's no doubt that Mastodon is a great heavy metal band, and perfect for hour-long sets at a music festival. But their material is just too similar for an enjoyable 90 minute headlining set. And there was no encore, which was kind of weird. The band played "March of the Fire Ants" and was like, "Ok! We're done here! Thanks for coming!" While this is a trademark of the band, it's still pretty jarring for a regular concert goer. I like being able to take a breath and prepare for an epic encore. Ultimately, while I'm glad I can officially check Mastodon of the list as "seen them," I really wish I had seen them open for Eagles of Death Metal. Or on the farm at Bonnaroo. But, beggars can't be choosers.
Derek: If you were to name a group of bands that I discovered solely from Rock Band, Mastodon is probably at the very top of that list. To this day, "Colony of Birchman" is one of my favorite songs to play, and I was more than excited to see them live. The problem with seeing a band like Mastodon at Taft Theatre is obvious once you enter through one of the four doors at look around the famous Art Deco room. The main theater is entirely seated. For a band like Mastodon to play there, with no room for jumping around and yes, moshing, it creates quite the disconnect of energy. I was hesitant to buy tickets for this very reason, but because of Rock on the Range, the hard rock and metal festival in Columbus, the last time Mastodon performed in Cincinnati was over ten years ago at Bogart's. Add to this a few consecutive sub-par albums (even though I enjoyed Emperor of Sand much more than Joseph), and there was a real feeling of urgency to see them before their prime is too far in the rearview mirror.
The mix of songs were about what I expected. They played the majority of Emperor of Sand and five tracks from Blood Mountain. The rest of the set was a peppering of songs from their other five albums. In hindsight, I'm glad they played a good amount from Blood Mountain, my personal favorite, but I can't help but wish there was less Emperor of Sand, because it really played into the issue that Joseph stated above. A lot of the songs from that album sound too similar to create an engaging show. I found myself watching individual band members perform and day dreaming, whether it was Brett Hinds barely opening his mouth as he growled his vocals or Brann Dailor's amazing drum fills, something that made Mastodon's songs so enjoyable on Rock Band. Everything about the second half of the set played against the casual metal fan, which was most certainly us. The individual instrumental performances were there, but the show dragged on after a while.
For me, the show can be summed up with a series of maybes. Maybe it would have been different in a general admission theater. Maybe if people were allowed to move around instead of being stuck in their seats there would have been more energy. Maybe if the ushers didn't scold concertgoers for having half a foot in the aisle it would have made for a better vibe. Maybe when you have a metal show at Taft Theatre you don't put two extra rows of folding chairs in the front and call them "pit seats". Maybe.
Rock on, dudes.
The Wolf Is Loose
Colony of Birchman
Chimas at Midnight
Circle of Cysguatch
March of the Fire Ants
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: