Thursday 21 March 2019

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Yn Ol i Annwn (2019)

Country: UK
Style: Doom/Sludge Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Mar 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

As band names go, Wrexham's finest, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, have few peers in the lack of subtlety department and that's appropriate given what they sound like. They're not particularly subtle either, except perhaps for the dulcet tones of Jessica Ball, which may not be entirely as sweet as we expect from the Welsh but which are the epitome of sweetness when compared to the music unfolding behind her like a slow mammoth stampede.

What's notable here isn't just that this music is slow, because I've heard slower, but that it's patient, stubborn and relentless, perhaps to reflect the album's title, which translates from the Welsh as "I do not know Annwn". I should point out that Annwn is not a person but a mythical otherworld of immortality, which suggests that the band may be pissed off at being merely human and, taking inspiration from the mammoth of the band's name, want to stomp everything in sight.

I should point out that the tone isn't brutal but almost disinterested, as if the guitarists are set running at a particular riff at a particular pace and they simply stick to it relentlessly throughout. The bass and the drums follow suit, with the occasional fill from the latter, while Ball is tasked with providing whatever melody is called for with her voice, which floats over the music like a dove staying in flight over an endless lake of lava. What variety we're given is added in through the use of space rock effects, which take the place of the absent lead guitar. There are no solos here.

The reason I'm reviewing this album is because this approach surprisingly works. There's a trancelike aspect to it as if the music aims to hypnotise us so that Ball can work her ritual magic over us with our defences down. I found that I really dug the thirteen and a half minute instrumental slog of Katyusha, even though, on paper, it should be ten minutes too long. There's little variance in the riffing and those space rock sound effects should go only so far, but it's somehow immersive and magical. It even gets a little lively nine minutes in, though I don't want to hint at some sort of jig. A word like 'lively' when applied to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is relative.

As that track might suggest, this is a long album, comprised of long songs (ranging from six and a half to eight and a half minutes) and longer songs (which start at ten and work their way up). The only exceptions are the two minute intro, named for Kurt Vonnegut's go to planet Tralfamadore, and the four and a half minute track oddly named Du bist jetzt nicht in der zukunft but oddly so, because I don't think Ball sings it in German. This feels as if it's only half a song in this company.

The most out of character track is The Majestic Clockwork, for a couple of reasons. For one, it gets downright perky a few minutes in, which I would have sworn wasn't a concept this band understood. And, for two, it ratchets up the pace consistently to an almost up tempo finalé, the first change of pace within a song in fifty minutes.

Then again, Five Days in the Abyss kicks off without riffs but with violin, a particularly melancholic violin trying to convince the sound effects that melancholy is the way to go with only partial success. Of course, when the guitars inevitably show up, they do so in suitably heavy fashion with yet another simple but highly effective riff. The riffage here is epochal but Ball's vocals are a highlight too, even though I'm not convinced that she actually has words to sing on this song.

I should call out guitarists Paul Michael Davies and Wes Leon for credit as they slay on this album with deceptive ease. They're backed by bass player Stuart Sinclair and drummer James Carrington. Each one of these folk is as stubbornly relentless as the rest and that's pretty frickin' relentless. I still have little idea why this works so well but it does.

Let's just say that it's heavy enough to live up to the band's name and no album should be heavy enough to live up to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard.

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