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.