Friday night guitar worship

Rock music is built upon the mantle of the electric guitar. It is the defining instrument of modern music, with countless genres building upon the form of the six-stringed instrument.

Rock music is built upon the mantle of the electric guitar. It is the defining instrument of modern music, with countless genres building upon the form of the six-stringed instrument. Two shows this Friday showcase very different interpretations of what it means to write music with guitar.

Mastodon, with Against Me!, Cursive, and Planesmistakenforstars

Friday, May 4, Roseland Theater, $25

Mastodon has risen to the top of the proto-metal pack since their inception in 2000. Early comparisons used Rush and Metallica as calling cards, but in reality Mastodon is a much heavier beast. Their first album, 2002’s Remission, already showcased a band in their prime. Giant swaths of rumbling guitars cut through the noise of other bands that were just treading water. After only one album Mastodon was already defining the evolution of independent metal. More time followed and Mastodon did what every band in the underground does. They went out on the road and honed their sound for their follow-up album.

Leviathan, released in 2004, was another step forward for the band. It is a concept album based around Melville’s Moby Dick, affectionately earning the band the description of “whale-metal.” The album pushed Mastodon into the spotlight even further, increasing sales and their fan base to eventually lead them to get signed to Warner Brothers Records. Leviathan was definitely a more mainstream statement than Remission had been, with cleaner production and focus on songwriting. It was not, however, a giant leap from their previous sound.

The biggest change would be in 2006, when the band released their major-label debut, Blood Mountain. This record marked a very obvious concentration on hooks and an even cleaner production style. For some bands this transition (I’ll call it the major label blues) marks an end to artistic merit and ultimately signals the demise of the band. Mastodon weathered that storm by taking a different direction. The production was cleaner but the band got weirder. Prog-inflected guitar jams were added to an album that also featured Mastodon’s first truly “marketable” song, a joint effort with Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age) titled “Colony of Birchmen.” While the pure, heavy bombast of their earlier work may be gone, Mastodon is still making music that helps make metal relevant.

Guitar-wise, Mastodon practices the art of awesome metal ass-kickery. Yeah, it’s technically impressive, but it also has the swing of really great songwriting. Both guitarists, Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, employ the tasteful use of volume while pounding out their live show. And Friday promises to be a great display of guitar wizardry.

Also playing with Mastodon are Against Me!, Cursive, and Planesmistakenforstars. The totality of this lineup is extremely weird. None of these bands really sound like the others. Against Me! is a punk/folk (maybe?) band best known for being really against major labels, but then deciding to sign to one. Cursive are a screamo/rock band that seems to have a lot of fans, though their sound is, uhhh, confusing. Rounding out (and opening up) the lineup is Planesmistakenforstars, a formerly screamo/punk band that now sounds like a mixture of Black Sabbath and Black Flag (though admittedly not nearly as good as either). You know how people say “this show offers something for everyone”? Well, this particular performance really does. For better or for worse.

Explosions in the Sky, with Eluvium

Friday, May 4, Wonder Ballroom, sold out

So, before we get started, I have to be the bearer of bad news. The Explosions in the Sky show is sold out. And that is really unfortunate, because, of the crop of post-rock bands that sprung up in Mogwai’s footsteps, Explosions in the Sky is easily one of the best. This band operates through the swelling of guitar melodies and building of majestic valleys and peaks. They weave what can best be described as musical landscapes. Explosions in the Sky’s newest album, All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone, is really their crowning achievement. It is an expansion of the sound they’ve been noodling at since their beginning.

While previous albums have hinted at complete greatness, All of a Sudden is the first that fully captures the band in their element. At the base their music is all about guitars, mainly the building of sweeping guitar epics and the rushing of cascading melodies. It might sound hyperbolic, but the sounds that Explosions in the Sky make are truly beautiful. Which leaves you, the reader who just learned about the band, in a bad position. They are playing this Friday, but it is sold out. The only answer here is to get creative. Buying from ticket scalpers is the easy, albeit expensive, answer, but there must be other ways. I highly suggest you figure it out.