The first live album by metal veterans Mastodon, 2011′s Live at the Aragon, was a track-by-track presentation of their masterful psychedelic concept album Crack the Skye, along with a few fan favorites. Live at Brixton is a more comprehensive production, spanning the band’s career from the noisier chaos of 2002′s full-length debut Remission to the angular, melodic firepower of their most recent studio disc, 2011′s The Hunter. The set leans a little Hunter-heavy, with nine featured tracks, but with 23 songs in the set, there’s still a healthy sampling of classic back catalog.
While the songs are solid, the album seems almost obligatory in an era of declining album sales. And Mastodon live, it turns out, are pretty much the same as Mastodon on record, with the exception of the gruffer vocals. Note-perfect replication, it seems, is more important to them than improvisation or any sort of tomfoolery. But their mighty songs do a lot of work for them: The chugging “Iron Tusk,” bursts with call-and-response vocals and an infectious mid-section, the nose-bloodying “Blood and Thunder,” with its chorus of “White whale!/ Holy grail!” (an homage to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick) is a solid ass-kicker and Mastodon even include two of their oldest songs, the militant, corrosive “March of the Fire Ants” and the furious, volcanic “Where Strides the Behemoth.” Neither vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders nor vocalist/guitarist Brent Hinds address the crowd for the entire show; drummer Brann Dailor finally thanks everyone at the end of the album, but for the for the other 90-plus minutes Mastodon wisely communicate solely through their pulse-pounding music.