Live at the Aragon


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Live at the Aragon Review

by Thom Jurek

Progressive metallers Mastodon finally broke through to the masses -- such as they are for heavy metal, anyway -- with 2009's Crack the Skye, which deals with themes of astral travel, out-of-body experiences, and the undefinable "dark matter" that resides in some "out there," space. The Crack the Skye tour was undocumented with the exception of one show: this one. According to the band, no matter what happened on the stage on October 17, 2009, at the Aragon in Chicago, it would end up on the record. This CD/DVD package captures the performance as it happened and includes (as a separate chapter) the Crack the Skye studio movie you see screened behind them, which further expands upon the album's themes. Essentially, depending on what happened, they'd end up as fools or heroes. Based on the evidence, the truth lies somewhere in between. For starters, despite the obvious "live" sound from the venue, Mastodon pretty much play almost exactly the way they do on the record. There is little to no spontaneity or improvisation -- which is neither here nor there -- because what Mastodon do musically is so impressive. Crack the Skye is performed in its entirety; a few cuts from previous records and a cover of the Melvins' "The Bit" round out the show. The only places the band really deviates from their studio arrangements is in the live vocals and in the extended guitar solo in "The Last Baron." All their stop-and-start, fret-ripping, finger-cracking, knotty riffology and technical acumen are on full display. The band's "cleaned up" vocals are disappointing live: neither Brent Hinds nor Troy Sanders nor Bränn Dailor sing on key anywhere here. Given that "sung vocals" highlighting lyrics are such an important part of the band's M.O. now, this is distracting, almost to a fault. In watching the DVD, it makes more sense to focus on the movie-with-soundtrack chapter because simply put, Mastodon are pretty boring to watch. They stand pretty much stationary and play. In sum, Live at the Aragon is a mixed bag aurally and visually, though the Crack the Skye movie is killer.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Mastodon Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick