To the Core 

Mastodon and more play Minglewood Hall.

More than hinted at with 2006's major-label debut Blood Mountain, Mastodon are not just influenced by progressive rock and metal (past and present), they are creating their own sub-genre of it. The name of their latest album, Crack the Skye, is a tribute to forgotten late-'70s prog-rock oddballs Crack the Sky, masters of the off-kilter but heavy riff. Basically, Mastodon have created an alternative to Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree that's cooler (meaning: less of a female-repellent), more challenging on a sonically experimental level, and, of course, much heavier. But compared to Between the Buried and Me, Mastodon's variation of metal might as well be the one-riff-for-an-entire-album minimalism of Sleep's Jerusalem.

That's an overstatement, but where Mastodon are likely to change tempo and volume several times within one song, they are not likely to transform into what sounds like a completely different band playing a completely different genre of music. Between the Buried and Me formed in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2000 and did what bands of their ilk do: tour, tour, tour and record and release an album so that limited-edition versions can be sold on tour, tour, tour.

From the early days, however, Between the Buried and Me were not easily confused with other metalcore bands with half-sentence names that could be motivational self-help DVDs or bad crime fiction. "Between the Buried and Me" is a line from a Counting Crows song, refreshingly chosen without a hint of irony. Their wholehearted embrace of musical influences, both in a fandom sense and historical sense, is also a welcome quality.

In fact, Between the Buried and Me released an album of cover versions of songs by artists that have made a lasting impact on the band. Titled The Anatomy of ... (Victory Records, 2006), the album features covers of Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Soundgarden, Queen, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins, Earth Crisis, Sepultura, Blind Melon, Faith No More, Depeche Mode, Pantera, and, of course, Counting Crows.

After two full albums that redefined what it meant for a death-metal-via-hardcore band to be "all over the place," the band took everything up a few notches with 2007's Colors. Much has been written about this album's range, referred to as "death metal to Death Cab for Cutie" and widely respected by musicians and fans who wouldn't otherwise come within 500 feet of a record associated with death metal/technical-death-metal.

The key to Between the Buried and Me is that they don't approach different genres of music in a half-ass, tongue-in-cheek, or disrespectful manner. Between the Buried and Me has a reverence for and love of music, and they've even crossed over into the secret-handshake world of prog-rock and progressive metal as a part of the "Progressive Nation" festivals, alongside heavy-hitters like Dream Theater, Opeth, and 3.

Last year's The Great Misdirect outdoes Colors without sounding like an extension of that album. It even has a song that's a dead ringer for '70s Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, avoiding abrupt changes and showcasing clean vocals from start to finish. It's an album that forces you to cancel everything for the next hour and a half. That's a good thing.

Baroness originally hailed from Savannah, Georgia, and some members still call the city home. For the past several years, the principal members of Baroness have refined a mix of Times of Grace-era Neurosis, the massive instrumental heart of Pelican, the darker strains of metallic hardcore from the '90s (like Memphis' own His Hero Is Gone), and, most noticeably, the towering desert-metal of Kyuss, until the sound became one that was all their own. Each successive album (now named for primary colors) has mapped a widening creative distance between themselves and what is known as "extreme metal." And each album has explored melody, vocally or instrumentally, and emotion much deeper than its predecessor. Their past two albums, 2007's Red Album and 2009's Blue Record, are recommended documents of modern heavy music.

Valient Thorr, which became a serious touring band after the release of their 2005 Volcom Entertainment debut Total Universe Man, also joins the four-band line-up at Minglewood Hall on Thursday, May 20th.


With Between the Buried and Me, Baroness, and Valient Thorr

Minglewood Hall

Thursday, May 20th

6:30 p.m., $23


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