Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mastodon - Live At The Aragon

Live At The Aragon
Reprise Records/Warner Music Australia

Mastodon’s fourth album ‘Crack The Skye’ (2009) represented a huge step forward for the Atlanta (Georgia, U.S.) based group, with the band adopting a greater progressive element to their previously established heavy groove metal sound. While some old-school fans had issues with the band’s newfound progressive sound, it certainly didn’t take away from the album’s overwhelming success, with the album garnishing critical acclaim from all quarters.
It’s been two years since then, and within that time, the four piece act (Comprising of bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, lead guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor) have toured countless times in support of the album. And as expected, Mastodon has decided the time is right to finally put together their first official live C.D./D.V.D. in the form of ‘Live At The Aragon’.
Recorded while out on tour with Dethklok in late 2009 (October 17th to be exact), ‘Live At The Aragon’ showcases Mastodon’s powerful performance at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago (Illinois) while performing ‘Crack The Skye’ in its entirety. Unlike the band’s previous live compilation D.V.D. ‘The Workhorse Chronicles: The Early Years 2000 - 2005’ (2006) and their appearance on 2007’s ‘Unholy Alliance’ D.V.D., ‘Live At The Aragon’ presents Mastodon in all their heavy progressive glory as a headlining act, and it’s a powerful performance that certainly does the band justice.
Mastodon isn’t the sort of band that generally promotes themselves on stage with huge spotlights or allowing the camera operators to spend large amounts of time focusing on the members themselves (Although there are plenty of shots of the band performing). No, Mastodon is all sticking to the shadows and allowing the music to do the talking, and the huge projection screens at the back to give those attending something to feast their eyes on (And the projected images really are something to see!).
Admittedly, the band start off the show a little shaky on the vocal front with the opening track ‘Oblivion’, but it certainly doesn’t derail proceedings with the band’s musical performance standing out as nothing short of stunning throughout.
For the next hour, the band perform ‘Crack The Skye’ in its chronological order, without missing a beat, with songs such as the multi-chaptered ‘The Czar’, the huge riff-fest ‘Quintessence’ and the energetic epic ‘The Last Baron’ given a whole new lease of life when played live.
Of course, after presenting their latest masterpiece, Mastodon offer up some gems of the past for old-school fans, with favourites such as ‘Circle Of Cysquatch’ (From 2006’s ‘Blood Mountain’), ‘Aqua Dementia’ (From 2004’s ‘Leviathan’), ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’, ‘Mother Puncher’ (Both from 2002’s ‘Remission’) and a cover of the Melvins’ ‘The Bit’ (Which the band recorded for the Melvins tribute album ‘We Reach’ back in 2005) to finish the show up with.
As an added bonus, the D.V.D. also comes with the fifty-one minute ‘Crack The Skye: The Movie’, which features the entire visual being played behind the band during the performance of ‘Crack The Skye’.
Overall, despite some rough patches on the vocal front at times, and a general lack of theatrics from the band while performing (Which isn’t all that surprising if you’ve seen the band live before), ‘Live At The Aragon’ is a testament to the brilliance of ‘Crack The Skye’, and an absolutely worthy addition to any Mastodon fan’s collection.

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© Justin Donnelly