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Mastodon - Live at the Aragon CD (album) cover

LIVE AT THE ARAGON

Mastodon

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.59 | 42 ratings

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proslambanomenos
4 stars This show is from the Adult Swim tour headlined by Dethklok and co-headlined by Mastodon (along with High on Fire and Converge). I caught the show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on October 30, 2009. I love Metalocalypse and all, but I just couldn't help losing interest after Mastodon played their set (actually, I was there to see Mastodon and Converge. Unfortunately, I missed High on Fire...)

Mastodon performs well enough to the point where they distinguish themselves from most other metal acts these days. Their records distinguish them even further; it is clear that this group carries the torch Metallica dropped a number of years ago. That being said, I feel they are an "albums" band above all, and may not live up to the Metallica comparison as a live experience, though they are terrific. This is really for two reason: First, the vocals are not as strong. The band admits this shortcoming. I must say, it is a minor grippe. They make up for it with their intensity and accuracy as players.

The show is divided into two sets. The first is a complete-album performance of Crack the Skye which shows their ambition as a progressive rock act and indicates their albums are not impossible to recreate in a live setting, which can be a pitfall. Some albums are intended to be studio-art pieces, and you can tell once you hear it live; however, these guys are more than capable of playing their own tunes. This brings me to the second reason why they fall a tad short: the performance is too similar to the album. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate good composition, but there should be an improvisational element to rock and roll. This has always been my problem with bands like Rush; they are stellar musicians (and hold a special place in my heart), but I wouldn't see them for their unpredictability and the excitement that comes along with it. I see them to marvel at their impeccable delivery and, well, just to see them. And I didn't say Mastodon (or Rush for that matter) isn't as good as they are on their albums, because they sure-as-shit are, it's just that I appreciate live music when you're not sure what the hell the band is going to do (which is why I love to listen to live Radiohead and -- to an even greater extent -- live King Crimson.)

The second set is when Mastodon really start to cook, and is easily the heaviest damn thing I've ever heard. They hand-picked tunes from each of their previous records, and, as it turns out, are all in a drop-A tuning. The tuning is partially responsible for the set's heaviness, but the effect it really creates is something for which the band is known: making listener-friendly sludge. "Where Strides the Behemoth" and "Mother Puncher" (from the bone-crushing Remisssion) are both killer, and, from experience, I can tell you the first riff after the intro of the former tune is so heavy and grinding live, you can feel it in your chest. This was probably the most memorable moment in the entire show. "Aqua Dementia" (from the seminal album Leviathan) is one of the most powerful tunes in their entire catalog, but I missed the vocals of Scott Kelly, whom often makes an appearance on their albums and at their shows. Despite this, the song was every bit as powerful live as it is on the album. "Circle of Cysquatch" (from the excellent Blood Mountain) also kicked my ass, but the first three were really the highlight of the show.

The only throw-away tune for me was their cover of "The Bit" by the Melvins. I understand it shows their sludge roots and pays homage to the sludge "masters", but perhaps I need a bit more time to really like it. The song itself is nowhere near as memorable as Mastodon's originals, so I found it to be a bit of a disappointment as a closer. I would have much rather heard one or two more tunes from the other three albums. ("Blood and Thunder" or "Capillarian Crest" perhaps?) But, as I said, I'll probably end up liking the Melvin's tune one day. Maybe when I start liking the Melvins.

I look forward to once again seeing this band live and to future live releases. They are maturing well, though they never really sounded anything less than mature.

I love this f**king band so much, it actually pains me to give them less than a 4-star rating, but I must be fair...

Three-and-a-half stars for the mighty Mastodon (happily rounded up to 4 stars for Progarchives rating system).

proslambanomenos | 4/5 |

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