Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
We’ve been excited for the upcoming Mastodon and Opeth tour, also featuring Ghost, since rumors started to make their way around the web. But with the official announcement made earlier this week, we now have exact dates to put on our calendars. Along with the full itinerary of dates, though, we also discovered that Mastodon and Opeth will actually rotate slots throughout the tour (with each closing on different nights). While this definitely is the fairest solution, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves a tough question: “If only one could close each night on this tour, who would it be?”
The second that question was uttered out loud in Metal Insider HQ, an intense discussion erupted. So many points could be made to defend choosing either Mastodon or Opeth. How could we choose one over the other?! Well, after much deliberation, Bram, Zach and Kodi were able to find an answer to that question and share their own reasoning in this week’s Headbangers Brawl.
Zach: As tough of a call as it is, I’d go with Mastodon. Opeth have a large and devoted following, but I would argue that Mastodon have reached a much higher amount of commercial success. Not many bands have been able to maintain a certain level of respect in the metal community while also being able to branch out to new/ non-metal audiences like Mastodon has, especially recently with the release of The Hunter. I’ve never seen Opeth live, so I can’t judge on who should have top billing based on live performance, but from a commercial standpoint, I’d have to say Mastodon.
Bram: It’s a tough call. I’ll tell you this though: Ghost is the perfect opener. People who know who they are will get there early, word of mouth will bring other people, and the random people that just happen to see them will almost undoubtedly be won over by their appearance and the songs. As far as who’s headlining, I think it’s great that both will get to, and basically, everyone wins. I will say that it’s sort of dependent on what version of Opeth we’re talking about. Heritage is a great album, but it’s definitely not the heaviest thing the band’s done. Their recent tour was pretty much all clean singing. If they don’t break out the heavy stuff, I think it’s fine that they’re in the middle slot. That way, it thematically builds, with Ghost’s poppy Satanic rock opening, Opeth’s proggy goodness in the middle, and Mastodon doing what they do. If Opeth is playing heavier stuff, however, it’ll be tough to come down from epic songs like “Deliverance” and “The Grand Conjuration,” even if ‘coming down’ consists of Mastodon’s amazingness.
Kodi: If you’re talking strictly in terms of the marketing pick, it makes too much sense to have Mastodon be the sole headliner. They’ve had a ton of commercial success in the States, and Mastodon has this insane name-recognition factor even among non-metalheads that Opeth doesn’t quite have yet. But from a musical standpoint, it’s a tougher call. Mastodon can hang with anyone, especially if you’re talking their pre-Blood Mountain material, and The Hunter had enough heavy moments to make it easy to tie deep cuts from Remission and Leviathan into their sets. But if Opeth gets up there and starts bringing the proggy death with songs like “Heir Apparent,” “The Drapery Falls” or “Demon of the Fall,” it could be tough for Mastodon to follow them.
You wouldn’t put a serious death metal act on before Mastodon, and while Opeth has never been that, they’re also crushingly heavy when picking through their whole catalog. I’d expect a few songs from Heritage and Damnation to sneak in and lighten whatever Opeth does, but it’s hard to imagine they’d play strictly the softer stuff like they did on tour with Katatonia last year. They’ve made a career out of doing what you wouldn’t expect, and if they have a couple of surprise new death metal tunes up their sleeves by the tour, there’s a reasonable risk of Mastodon being upstaged at shows they’re headlining. Ghost into Mastodon into Opeth is just more likely to flow better, but the reason this is such a tough call for me is simple: these are two of the best bands in metal right now, and they’ll be pushing each other and playing out of their minds.