Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - 'Yn Ol I Annwn' Album Review
1. Tralfamadore 2. The Spaceships Of Ezekiel 3. Fata Morgana 4. Du Bist Jetzt Nicht In Der Zukunft 5. Yn Ol I Annwn 6. Katyusha 7. The Majestic Clockwork 8. Five Days In The Abyss
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is a band with an interesting name, one which I shall be abbreviating to MWWB henceforth, their new album 'Yn Ol I Annwn' is equally fascinating. I was initially expecting a more traditional Sludge Metal sound, down-tuned dirty guitars playing slow chugging riffs. I was not disappointed as this is a feature of the MWWB sound, musically though the first thing that struck me here is the presence of prominent keyboards, where the usual fare of this genre seems trapped by an unwillingness to investigate more modern instrumentation, MWWB are not afraid of technology, and they embrace it here to excellent effect.
Surprise number two for this reviewer came when the vocals entered after the instrumental intro track "Tralfamadore", I did a mini double take the first time I heard a voice in "The Spaceships Of Ezekiel, for MWWB are a female fronted Sludge band. Never one to embrace accepted convention this just made the whole idea of this review more interesting.
So with eight tracks on an album about 65 minutes long, you're perhaps expecting some longer running times... this is the case. But these longer tunes never overstay their welcome (on the contrary, I often felt compelled to give this album another listen very soon after a listening session. To my mind, nothing here feels drawn out, the band know they don't need to hurry, there's a lot that can be said in this music and MWWB are evidently now very adept at making these kinds of musical statements.
The album has 3 tracks running over 10 minutes (the longest of these is an instrumental) but they are intercut with a couple of the "shorter" numbers, not to suggest for a second that anything on this album shoots out of the gate in an uptempo manner, like all great Sludge, the riffs are given just enough room to breathe and to build in a natural way. There's no sense of anything dragging anyway because of the constant evolutions in the music, for example the instrumental "Katyusha" is thirteen and a half minutes long, without any sense of dragging as it continues to grow and shift rhythmically and melodically throughout its runtime, cut through on occasion with moments of crystalline sparkle from the synthesizers playing off against the dual guitars. These are definitely not "twin" guitars, this band's two guitarists ensure that if there's something slightly different they can be playing they will diverge, converging again at the most opportune moments with crushing chords.
I sometimes feel like I may not mention enough individual elements of the music in my reviews but I would hope people will find their own moments of musical satisfaction in the music I review, however, I will say there's a moment at the beginning of penultimate track "The Majestic Clockwork" the use of keyboards during the instrumental intro which then switches from the smoother melodic instrument to a more raucous driven guitar sound as the clean, almost daydream like vocals begin has a disturbingly beguiling effect. Of course now I've mentioned that I must also give kudos to the band for the journey I went on while listening to album closer "Five Days In The Abyss" on headphones walking to work at 4:00 in the morning... dynamics are occasionally a brutal and terrifying thing, that was a definite experience.
In a strange way this band that doesn't sound, when one tries to describe them with genres or styles, like they'd be for everyone, turn out to be very accessible, I've been listening to the album a few times "preparing for this review" and again while writing it, it's almost too easy to lose yourself in the soundscapes created here. If you're open-minded about your Sludge Metal, there's a lot more happening on "Yn Ol I Annwn" than a sublime blend of haunting melodies and heavy riffing.
Review - Mike McLaughlin