Mastodon - Live at the Aragon [CD/DVD] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Live at the Aragon [CD/DVD] (2011)


Mastodon are proud of their 2009 album, Crack the Skye, and they should be; it's great. They're so proud of it that they played it front to back at almost every show supporting it. It's an awesome album to throw on headphones and listen to in the dark, but it doesn't make for the most engaging live experience, and unfortunately, that record makes up about 60% of Live at the Aragon. Opener "Oblivion" doesn't exactly storm out of the gates and get you fired up for the rest of the evening.

The second portion of the set list is much more interesting, and increases the energy tenfold. The band chooses to ignore the "hits" like "Blood and Thunder" and "Colony of Birchmen" in favor of deeper cuts like "Mother Puncher" and "Aqua Dementia". Closing the evening with a cover of "The Bit", originally performed by the Melvins, is a curious choice as well, but it sounds absolutely MASSIVE.

Instrumentally, the band are completely spot-on, but vocally, their performances don't quite measure up to the studio versions of the songs. Chances are, in the future when I want to hear these songs, I'll reach for the albums they originally came from, rather than Live at the Aragon.

The DVD portion of the package is what sets it apart. I suppose after playing Crack the Skye front to back so often it's expected they'd have it down pat, but still it's impressive to see the band pull off the more technical aspects of the music seemingly effortlessly.

For many, the most enticing aspect of Live at the Aragon is Crack the Skye: The Movie, the experimental film that played behind the band on their Crack the Skye tours. The narrative, which follows the same storyline as the album, is a little hard to follow, and interspersing it with images of the album artwork coming to life doesn't make it any easier. It looked awesome playing on a giant screen behind the band, but doesn't really warrant a full viewing on its own. It's interesting to have on in the background while you're doing something else, but your mind will start to wander if you focus on it for too long.

Live at the Aragon is a nice package for diehard fans, and diehard fans alone. Mastodon are one of the best bands making heavy music in 2011, but their studio albums are where they shine. The video of the performance and accompanying film are interesting, but don't really warrant repeat viewings. When it comes to modern heavy metal, Mastodon's studio albums are essential. This is fun, but not a mandatory purchase.