Few bands leave heavier footprints than Mastodon, who crush wherever they roam. Metal’s modern leaders stopped by New York City’s historic Hammerstein Ballroom on their North American tour with Eagles of Death Metal and Russian Circles, stunning fans with a gigantic 20-song set.

Russian Circles chose to remain in the shadows for their performance, delivering their instrumental assault for a crowd that eats progressive music. The band’s short set hung the bar very high for Eagles of Death Metal, who delivered a powerful sermon in the church of rock and roll. Frontman Jesse Hughes repeatedly told the New York audience how much he loved them, adding that New York has always welcomed EODM with open-armed hospitality. Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds even guested on “I Only Want You,” ripping insane solos for the packed house.

Finally, it was Mastodon’s time to hit the stage. Seven pillars of LED screens shined with psychedelic artwork and monstrous creatures, some familiar from Mastodon’s litany of artwork through the past 17 years. The crowd popped right away as the shimmering cymbal beginning “Sultan’s Curse” rang through Hammerstein’s PA system right before the riffs of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher gripped Mastodon’s NYC faithful. The band kept the crowd’s energy rabid with a trio of fan favorites from the 2000s — “Divinations,” “The Wolf is Loose” and “Crystal Skull.”

Troy Sanders kept a solid grip of his high notes during “Ancient Kingdom,” triumphantly soaring through the Emperor of Sand cut. The next seven songs of the night came from six different albums, but the mix was a brilliant trip through Mastodonian history. Fans chanted, “I burned out my eyes / I cut off my tongue,” during The Hunter’s “Black Tongue” before banging their heads to the punching downstrokes of Leviathan's “Megalodon” and floating along with the anthemic “Oblivion” off Crack the Skye.

Emperor of Sand tracks dominated the meat of Mastodon’s setlist, especially from the mid-point onward. You could feel the energy dip slightly, with some of the more polished tracks from Mastodon’s 2017 album failing to translate with the same power in a live setting. However, drummer Brann Dailor’s vocal work during the bridge of “Roots Remain” was a highlight of the night.

After pulling the masses back in with “Mother Puncher” and “Circle of Cysquatch,” Mastodon fans blew the roof off the Hammerstein Ballroom once Hinds churned through the opening riff to “March of the Fire Ants,” the definitive track from Mastodon’s debut album, Remission. Mastodon hadn’t played the song in New York City since 2011 and fans reacted accordingly, offering Mastodon the show’s most volcanic burst of elation.

From a technical standpoint, Mastodon just keep getting better and better with each tour. The air-tight chemistry between band members despite constant time signature changes and complex compositions is simply jaw-dropping. Mastodon represent the absolute apex of metal musicianship and the band’s vocal dynamics are miles ahead of where they were just five years ago. Mastodon continue to keep the magic going, further cementing themselves as metal’s crown jewel of the 21st century.

Check out our exclusive photos of Mastodon’s May 11 show in New York City above! Click here for their remaining U.S. tour dates.

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