Some bands are made to make live albums. They’re those bands that sell venues out in moments, their names falling from the mouths of music fans keen to praise their latest shows as the best gig they’ve ever seen. Mastodon are one of those bands, and Live At Brixton – capturing their first jaunt in south London’s legendary Academy – is their second live album, following 2011’s Live At The Aragon.
Firstly, a word of caution for the audio purists: Live At Brixton isn’t available on CD, but as mp3 download only, and that might well disappoint fans used to the souped-up deluxe editions that usually come from this band. That said, this show – filmed in front of a sold-out Academy in February 2012 – is now also available on DVD, and given the physical heft of the band’s performance, that might well be worth the extra outlay.
For now though, let’s concentrate here on the digital format of Live At Brixton, and as live albums go this is about as disappointing as finding a forgotten tenner in your back pocket. Against a backdrop emblazoned with the artwork to their most recent album, The Hunter, Mastodon stage a show that doesn’t rely on fancy projections or elaborate production, instead they let their well-oiled performance speak for itself. Crystal Skull is cataclysmic amidst a flood of lilac spotlights, brandishing Brent Hinds’ lively guitar-playing in a dizzying tumult of thick, progressive sounds.
The stunning transition from I Am Ahab to Capillarian Crest is just one of the many moments where they have you truly hooked, using their maverick spirit and mercurial approach to music to command the rapt audience. Throughout the 90-minute set Mastodon’s delivery is unfussy and highly physical, and while their burly aesthetics are akin to a mob of lumberjacks who have just accidentally wandered through the stage door, this band sound fantastic. By the time we reach All The Heavy Lifting the sweat is starting to drip, and from then on it’s a completely captivating ride from one of the best live bands in the business. Their brute force is mitigated by the melodic refrain of Crack The Skye and Sleeping Giant’s cut-through riffs.
Old songs blend beautifully with plenty of new ones (Curl Of The Burl, a great rendition of Thickening) but the last chunk of the show’s dedicated to old favourites, namely March Of The Fire Ants and a crushing Blood And Thunder, all of which turn the audience into one heaving mass.
Strangely Stargasm is omitted (it was a real treat at Download festival this year), but when they perform this well, Mastodon can be forgiven pretty much anything.