It was just a matter time before I would make the drive, about seventy miles from Minneapolis, to one of newest outdoor venues to take in a show. The Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park, Minnesota opened in 2021 and is nestled between two quarries which was a perfect environment to host one of the heaviest tours pounding North America. The Ledge was sold out for The Mega-Monsters Tour 2023 featuring Gojira and Mastodon as co-headliners with Lorna Shore opening.
I had only heard the name Lorna Shore but had never heard the music. Experience told me that if I couldn’t decipher the name by looking at the band logo, it would be a set of knock-out blows that left little confusion of what the band was about. When vocalist Will Ramos hit the stage and the band launched into their deathcore sound, it was on. The five-piece unit blitzed through a thirty-five-minute set and never wavered on their intense onslaught. The band released an album in 2022 called ‘Pain Remains’ and played “Sun/Eater,” “Cursed to Die,” “Into Earth” and three-part series of the title track.
Mastodon was born twenty-three years ago in Atlanta Georgia. The bands line-up has been unchanged since 2001 with Troy Sanders on bass and lead and backing vocals, Brent Hinds on lead guitar, lead and backing vocals, Bill Kelliher on rhythm guitar and backing vocals and behind the kit sat Brann Dailor who also provided lead and backing vocals. They are band that does not adhere to the saying “one size fits all’ musical genre. They encompass multiple styles that include progressive, alternative, stoner and sludge metal. Opening up with “The Wolf is Loose” and then into “Crystal Skull” got people on their feet and it was very clear how much of following Mastodon has. Behind the band, the screen behind them helped bring the music alive with trippy images in various colors that seemed to carry the music into the crowd. They have released eight studio albums along with various other compilation and live releases so there was plenty of music to choose from. Some of my favorites were “Andromeda,” “Sultan’s Curse,” “Fallen Torches,” “Mother Puncher” and the unforgettable closing crusher “Blood and Thunder.” They sounded fantastic through the entire seventeen song set. This was my first time catching these guys, hard to believe, but the wait was worth it as they surpassed my expectations and really showcased why they have been so successful for so long. I won’t wait another twenty-three years to see them again.
Godzilla was formed in Ondres, France in 1996 but in 2001 the name Gojira was adopted and has now become one of the biggest names in the metal genre. The line-up, the same since 1998, consists of Joe Duplantier on vocals and rhythm guitar, Mario Duplantier on drums, lead guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie. Opening with “Ocean Planet” there was no denying the amount of musical muscle they can unleash. Like the band that played before them, Gojira cannot be stuck into one box. Technical death metal, progressive, groove and heavy metal all can be heard in their sound that they uniquely blend into a sound that is truly all their own. Songs like “Backbone,” “Flying Whales,” “Silvera” served-up a thunderous sound that the crowd that packed The Ledge was waiting to hear. The lights from the screens danced and weaved through the extreme thickness of the smoke and created a dark and ominous setting that gave the perfect visual effect to play off the music. The smoke cannons at the front of stage along with the confetti canons on the floor in front of the stage offered some really striking visual moments throughout the night.
The band released ‘Fortitude’ in 2021 and it became a bit of a breakthrough record. Still maintaining the traditional approach of past works, this album also contained more classic rock elements and hooks that caught the ear of people that had not listened to the band before. The album was well represented in the set as they hit on “Another Word,” “Grind,” “The Chant” and one my highlights of the night “Amazonia.” The band itself was as crisp and on-point as ever and continues to evolve as a must-see band. The catalog they have amassed is fantastic but to truly understand this band, to fully absorb the music and the emotion and strength embodied within the lyrics and guitar chords, it must be heard live. That is where this band and their music truly takes on its Godzilla persona as it is unleashed on you. No matter what genre of metal you want to be in, it’s the live setting where you earn your keep and build equity among metal fans and Gojira has proven to be one of the best. This show at The Ledge was further proof that this upward trend they have been on will keep on building with every show.