Live at Brixton review by Mastodon

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  • Released: Dec 10, 2013
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 7.6 (12 votes)
Mastodon: Live at Brixton
2

Sound — 6
With five albums under their belt - and their latest, "The Hunter," being the most commercially successful one - Mastodon is a household name in metal music. Back in 2011, the band released their first live album, "Live at the Aragon," which was in support of their most recent studio album at the time, "Crack the Skye." Mastodon does that same formula once again with their new live album, "Live at Brixton," being a release in complement of their 2011 studio album, "The Hunter." This, of course, means that nearly half of the songs in the set are from the latest studio album, but there are plenty of classics in there as well.

The big catch-22 with live performances is how the sound is mixed: should the guitars dominate the soundwaves, or should the singer's voice lead the way? Are the drums coming in loud enough? Maybe the bass should be a bit lou- HAHA, JUST KIDDING; SUCKS TO BE YOU. With a live concert, the sound mixing doesn't need to be stellar, because the crowd watching is also being immersed in the energy of the show – but when it comes to a live performance on CD - where the only thing to pay attention to is the sound - it's integral to get the sound as best as possible. And for the case of "Live at Brixton," this is arguable. Intuition would figure out that the guitars would be the clearest instruments to hear; and while that'd certainly please many, the fact that they start to drown out the other instruments at times becomes a bit annoying. Such is the case in songs like "Circle of Cysquatch," "Iron Tusk" and "Blood & Thunder," where the guitars make it tough to hear the fast, impressive drum-fills; and in "Black Tongue," "Aqua Dementia" and "Capillarian Crest," the vocals can barely be heard – though it's probably safe to assume Mastodon fans aren't fans solely for the vocals. The vocals were appropriately well-mixed in the radio-friendly "Curl of the Burl," and the best-mixed song of the album was "Sleeping Giant," where both guitar-lines were working in cooperation, and all other instruments were able to shine as well.

Lyrics — 7
(this part will be used to critique the performance) If a band is going to release a live album and expect their fans to purchase it, they better put on a damn good performance for it – and Mastodon does not disappoint on this album. With guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher being the main focus of the show, their skills are top-notch and they perform each of the 23 songs (plus an improvised guitar solo) flawlessly. Drummer Brann Dailor deserves much praise as well, for he was a powerhouse of a drummer on every song, and each drum-fill he rattled off (and there were of course many of them) sounded just as energetic as the one before. And while the bass was overshadowed by the guitars, frontman Troy Sanders didn't let that stop him from playing his best. The vocal side of things, though, definitely seems to be an afterthought, and though songs like "Curl of the Burl," "I Am Ahab," "Sleeping Giant" and the epic finale of "Creature Lives" were okay examples of their live vocals, songs like "Blasteroid," "Spectrelight," "Megalodon" and "Aqua Dementia" were quite inadequate.

Overall Impression — 6
It's no question that the die-hard Mastodon fans will be getting this, but for those on the fence, you should properly evaluate. If you're not a fan of their latest album, you may want to stray away from this, because many of the songs on "Live at Brixton" are from their latest album. If you're a stickler for the best quality of sound, you may be perfectly fine composing the set list on your music library using the band's studio versions of the songs rather than getting this live album. And if you're hoping that the live versions of songs will have more instrumental improvisation, you may not be satisfied – for the only improvisation on it is the guitar solo, as well as some improvisation in "Crack the Skye." But otherwise, "Live at Brixton" is a solid performance.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    _one
    Never really listened to Mastodon but Dry Bone Valley is very nice.
    Paperjace
    Honestly one of the best metal bands of this generation. Its really cool to see how they've grown as a band since the beginning.
    Inglig909
    These guys are one of my favorite bands but I must say, they're not the most interesting live band. Good for the music but they don't really interact with the crowd much. Don't know why they released this dvd
    MetalMullet
    I really appreciated their not-interacting-with-the-crowd thing the few times I've seen them though. They just go out there and do their thing. Some bands can pull the talking off, but most bands are just cheesy as f**k when they try to entertain the crowd.
    frantix
    "The big catch-22 with live performances..." Please don't use terms you obviously do not understand.
    FistOfFury
    I'm a huge Mastodon fan. But their live singing ruins everything for me. For example, I love the song Stargasm, but seeing a few live versions of it made me want to womit. I often played songs like The Czar and The Last Baron around my brother, so he kinda knew them. Then one day he strolls along and sees me watching a Mastodon concert. And the first thing he pointed out was how the live singing sucked compared to the album version.
    WrathfulOne
    Yeah unfortunately I have to agree. I am a huge fan of theirs too, and I listen to them literally every day, but their live vocals are terrible due in particular to Brent. He just cannot sing, and I don't know why they decided to let him sing on so many songs. I like Troy's vocals on Leviathan and Remission most, but most of the songs have Brent singing after those albums. There are loads of videos of Brent singing on Youtube where he just screams and you can't understand what he's saying, or he doesn't even pronounce the words (I think due to concentrating on the guitar). I have watched loads of their videos since I love playing their songs on guitar. Bring back Troy's epic bellowing I say, and let Brent concentrate on being a total badass on his axe.
    shredder3386
    Bought this over Christmas and loved it. I found the sound to be pretty decent, although I guess from a guitarist's perspective its heaven because the guitars are loud in the mix. Although they did play a lot of The Hunter material, you cant fault them for that. It was recorded during that album's touring cycle. If you want Crack the Skye live go watch live at the Aragon.
    travislausch
    The sound wasn't that bad. All live DVDs seem to have roughly the same production as far as I've seen so, good. 8 for sound, 7 for setlist, 10 for Mastodon!
    codyrhodes
    mastodong blows
    robertito696
    Thought the sound was solid, beefier than live at the Aragon which is a good thing, good setlist too. Never had an issue with their live vocals either, and to say they're boring live is ridiculous. If you want stage antics go see Dillinger, Mastodon is for getting stoned and pummeled by the mighty riffs. Plus with the crazy shit they're playing, and singing on top of that, it's not surprising they can't be running around all the time.
    ewolf5150
    man i've tried numerous times to get into these guys and i just can't. every magazine and metalhead would talk about how mastodon was this "amazing" prog metal band and how they are so original. I tried way back in 2006 a few times and even saw them live up close and was bored as hell. Not one of my metalhead friends listens to them either. i dunno, i guess they just arent my style. now would someone please reply and tell me how i'm not mature enough for this type of music and how i just dont "understand/get it" even though i gave em a shot
    papathaddy
    Different strokes for different folks. I tried around 2005 when blood mountain came out and i thought it was too hard for me. Few years later I saw that crack the skye came out and decided to try it. I just ended up buying all their albums and playing them over and over again until i loved them. I do admit Mastodon is unique band just because when i think of them i think of being lost in forest while being on an angry acid trip. If anything find their top or softest songs and work from their, also you might want to try baroness since they are in my opinion easier or poppier. If not move to something else.
    Kreuger
    I'm not a diehard fan but I bought it. Now if I can find a way to put it onto a dvd..