'Twas a night of metal in three distinct variations at the Newport Music Hall yesterday. Headliners Mastodon, a hearty main course on their own, were joined by appetizers Converge and Priestess.

I missed most of Priestess, but despite plenty of recommendations, I wasn't feeling the band's retro styled pop metal. Their drummer launched into a supposedly thrilling solo just before I showed up. Maybe that would have made their set more engaging. I'm not ready to condemn them, but I'm also not prepared to recommend them just yet. I'll leave that to John Ross.

'Twas a night of metal in three distinct variations at the Newport Music Hall yesterday. Headliners Mastodon, a hearty main course on their own, were joined by appetizers Converge and Priestess.

I missed most of Priestess, but despite plenty of recommendations, I wasn't feeling the band's retro styled pop metal. Their drummer launched into a supposedly thrilling solo just before I showed up. Maybe that would have made their set more engaging. I'm not ready to condemn them, but I'm also not prepared to recommend them just yet. I'll leave that to John Ross.

Next up was Converge, another band I wasn't overwhelmingly familiar with. Judging from the friends of mine that champion the band, I expected jerky song structures, indecipherable screaming and everything else that comes with the more emotive strain of post-hardcore. Those expectations proved pretty much dead on, which made for a show that compelled for about 10 minutes. Eventually, the songs blurred together into a gruesome ball of angst and unusual time signatures—the sound of a frustrated student lashing out in math class.

That's not to say Converge was completely irredeemable. The band's rhythm section is skilled at punk-metal battery, as is guitarist Kurt Ballou, who indulged in some kickass one-handed shredding. But these skilled musicians could put their talents to better use by applying them to songs instead of a series of unrelated riffs. The music as it stands now is the result of enormous creativity left unfocused. As for singer Jacob Bannon, he could stand to cut back on the Jesus Christ poses. It's possible to be an engaging, theatrical, Henry Rollins-aping frontman without taking it over the edge. Again, with a little polish, he'd be on top of his game.

After a lengthy delay, headliners Mastodon came out and launched into a formidable set of songs drawn mostly from the recent Blood Mountain and 2004's legendary Leviathan. From the balcony, the sound system that had sounded so good on the floor somewhat obscured the Atlanta quartet's virtuosity, but no amount of muddiness could have held back the group's ferocious charge.

Beyond the typical headbanging and leaned-back shredding, Mastodon doesn't have the strongest stage presence. The band makes up for it with flawless execution of brilliant metal tunes. Like an ideal composite of its opening acts, Mastodon blended complexity and darkness with accessibility and straightforward power. Although the set was long enough to get lost in its middle section, the last few songs connected with the force of a heavyweight's uppercut. Standouts "Capillarian Crest" and "Blood and Thunder" were a sweet dessert for the diverse metal buffet the Newport served up.