The first ever live DVD-and-CD set from this Atlanta quartet should make fans of their last album, 2009's Crack the Skye, very happy. The sound and footage is from Mastodon's stop at Chicago's Aragon, which they visited while touring for that record, and the group starts off by playing the album in its 50-minute-plus entirety. But even so, Live at the Aragon might also win back some of the followers that abandoned ship after the band moved in a prog-ier direction on its last two albums—just not right away.
As the band launches into the Crack the Skye portion of the show, the energy seems pretty low. Whether you love or hate the newer, more progressive Mastodon, the music is certainly not as headbang-able as earlier material. As seen on the DVD, during the opening songs, fans stand around, virtually motionless, singing along. But while Mastodon may not be the most energetic live act, they keep the audience captivated just enough with incredibly tight musicianship and catchy riffs that sound surprisingly powerful live, like the ending rock-out to "Quintessence." During "The Czar," the quartet's showmanship finally shines through in the spectacular musical performance. Bassist-singer Troy Sanders delivers the vocals in a passionate, theatrical manner, and his bandmates seem to rally around him. By the end of the "The Last Baron," Sanders has full command of the stage.
By this point, disenfranchised old-timers may be slightly re-engaged with the group, but as the second part of the show kicks in, they should be fully absorbed. The latter half of the performance features material off earlier albums, but the band avoids singles, creating a set an old-school Mastodon fan can appreciate. Guitarist-singer Brent Hinds' performance does lag over the last few songs, especially with his slurred vocals, but the band still ends on mind-blowingly awesome renditions of "Mother Puncher" and the Melvins' "The Bit."
The DVD also includes a 58-minute tour film, as well as the footage that was projected on screen behind the band's performance, which, when watched on its own, makes for a trippy, fascinating movie set to Crack the Skye—a new and intriguing way to experience to the album. In all, Live at the Aragon has plenty for both old and new Mastodon fans to enjoy. CODY THOMAS