Mastodon Mesmerize on Live Version of ‘Crack the Skye’ — Video Premiere
Atlanta metal titans Mastodon have always approached their music visually and thematically, whether they were revamping Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ on their 2004 album ‘Leviathan,’ chronicling a deadly expedition up a steep slope inhabited by horrible monsters on ‘Blood Mountain,’ or unraveling a phantasmagoric tale about astral projection, wormholes, Rasputin, and other unearthly delights on their latest album, ‘Crack the Skye.’ It was only a matter of time before Mastodon captured their imagery-filled songs on a visually rich concert DVD that offers more than just a standard live performance.
‘Mastodon: Live at the Aragon’ (out March 15) captures the band’s October 19, 2009 headlining performance at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago during a tour with Dethklok, Converge, and High on Fire. Shot with 10 cameras, the DVD footage features ‘Crack the Skye’ performed in its entirety along with songs from the band’s back catalog and a cover of ‘The Bit’ by the Melvins. ‘Mastodon: Live at the Aragon’ also features a CD of the concert and a DVD of an original movie the band comissioned to accompany the ‘Crack the Skye’ album. Noisecreep is proud to premiere the band’s mesmerising perfromance of ‘Crack the Skye’ taken from their upcoming live DVD.
“We’ve been wanting to do a concert DVD for a while now and this was our biggest production to date,” drummer Brann Dailor told Noisecreep. “We were playing to the largest audiences we’d played to as a headliner band, the Aragon is a beautiful place, and we always do really well in Chicago. It seemed like the ideal place to film the show and fortunately it all came together really well.”
During a brief break from writing new material, Dailor covered topics including the challenges of recording the concert, the accompanying mini-movie, Mastodon’s least memorable performance, the progress they’ve made on the follow-up to ‘Crack the Skye,’ how working on the score for the film ‘Jonah Hex’ improved the band’s improvisational abilities, and Dailor’s favorite fairytale: life after death.
Noisecreep: Was there anything especially memorable about the show?
Brann Dailor: The main thing I remember is it was extremely nerve-wracking because it’s expensive to have all that equipment there. We’ve played plenty of high-pressure gigs in our lifetime as a band, but this was definitely one that stuck out as one we were especially nervous for. When a lot of bands do a live DVD, they’ll tape a few shows just in case. The majority of times, you’re gonna miss something or screw something up. We didn’t have that luxury. Everything had to be as perfect as it could be because there was no way to fix it later, especially with the drums. When we were finished with the concert, I remember being really excited because I made it through it. There’s so much going on rhythmically with ‘Crack the Skye.’ There are lots of different cues and we’re all singing. I was just happy that it went pretty well.
Watch an exclusive video preview of ‘Crack the Skye’ from the forthcoming ‘Mastodon: Live at the Aragon’ (March 15)
The vocals sound great. The harmonies are spot-on.
Yeah, they’re not too terrible. They’re pretty good. We’re not the best singers in the world and everybody knows that. But I remember feeling really good about it when it was finished. And in the end, it was just another good rock show for us. That whole tour was like that. We were performing well and getting along and having fun onstage. I kind of wish we had been able to play some older stuff. Hopefully we’ll be able to do another one of these live DVDs soon and play more of a cornucopia from the catalog.
Have you ever done a TV appearance or a festival show where you just weren’t clicking and everything went horribly wrong?
Oh, yeah. Our ‘Letterman’ performance was pretty awful. We didn’t have our best day, vocally. I had the flu and it was about 48 degrees in the studio. We wanted it to be our shining moment and it just wasn’t. When we got done with it we just walked off and went, “Okie-dokie, we just played ‘Letterman’ and it wasn’t ideal. Great.”
You guys are so consistently ‘on’ that it must be a major bummer when a big show doesn’t represent you at your best.
That’s the thing about playing live. There are these perceptions that it should be a certain thing. People go, “How was it opening for Iron Maiden?” Well, it’s f—in’ great to watch Iron Maiden every night from the side of the stage, but it’s not always the best show because there are just some things you don’t have control over, especially when you’re the opening band. It’s like “Oh man, you played in front of 80,000 people! That must be one of the best moments of your life!” And you go, “Well, not really. We sounded like s—.” I sound like I’m complaining. I mean, all that stuff is really great and it’s totally amazing we get to play music for a living. But to put all that stuff in perspective, it seems like the greatest thing in the world, but it might not always live up to your expectations.
Maybe that’s partially because there’s this unpredictable element. You’re playing without a safety net. But that’s also what makes a good performance like ‘Live at the Aragon’ so exciting.
Yeah, and I think 90 percent of the live albums people go and buy, like Thin Lizzy ‘Live and Dangerous,’ all that stuff was re-recorded. Judas Priest’s ['Unleashed in the East'] — all the vocals were completely re-recorded because Rob Halford was sick and wasn’t able to nail all the parts. But ‘Live at the Aragon’ is a day in the life. This is a representation of that show [on] that particular night.
The package also includes a DVD of visuals synched to ‘Crack the Skye.’ Did Josh Graham, who does the video work for Neurosis, shoot the film?
No, he did one for us and it was super-awesome, but he used a lot of footage from actual movies, so we would have never been able to get clearance for all that stuff. We got Roboshobo, this director from L.A. who has done a bunch of videos for us (‘Oblivion,’ ‘Sleeping Giant,’ ‘Divinations’), to direct a whole entire movie of visuals to go along with the album. It [closely follows the album's] storyline and it’s got a bunch of psychedelic imagery [which] links up perfectly with the record. So it’s a whole new experience for ‘Crack the Skye.’ You can put it on, drink some Robitussin, and just freak out.
Is there also a tour documentary that accompanies the DVD?
No. We were planning on including a tour movie that goes from 2005 to now. That is still in the works, but it kind of turned into this other thing. It’s more of a full documentary, and we want to make sure it is as good as it can be. It wasn’t ready yet and we realized we needed to put out the performance DVD of ‘Crack the Skye’ before no one cared. We felt like there was this window of opportunity, otherwise we would have had to wait another 20 years for it to be a classic rock album before anyone cared about it again. And we felt like the window was starting to close on this particular DVD being relevant because we’re writing, and we’re about to record another record really soon. So we just decided to keep working on the movie [to] make sure that it’s awesome and [will] release it separately.