Where their previous demo had given some hint of a retro ‘70s influence, the debut full-length from Nyköping, Sweden, four-piece Mamont is more thickly, densely fuzzed. Passing through the Mastery Door is a fairly ambitious title for an act making their debut, but the Ozium Records release is accordingly sure of itself and of its aesthetic, culling influence both from the ‘90s stoner rock heyday (which 20 years on is its own kind of retro, I suppose) and the natural, laid-back vibing of modern European heavy psych, albeit more riff-based and with less of a focus on jamming than some of their contemporary upstarts. More Truckfighters than Colour Haze, if you want to put it in terms of bands, but even a Truckfighters comparison is only to tone, as Mamont never quite hit the same upbeat feel as the Örebro trio, instead riding out varying but ultimately mid-paced grooves and low-end largesse while letting the deeply-mixed , echoing vocals of guitarist Karl Adolfsson add psychedelic worldview to the lumbering progression of opener “Mammuten.” Almost certainly, the first track on Passing through the Mastery Door takes its title from its riff, through which Karl and fellow axe-wielder Jonathan Wårdsäter – relation assumed to bassist Victor Wårdsäter – establish an immediate “big” feel. Even when drummer Jimmy Karlsson veers away from the stomping kick bass and opens up onto his toms for the chorus vocal section or the reverb-drenched, wah guitar solo, the sound is spacious, and though later tracks like “Stonehill Universe” will inject a bit of boogie and “Creatures” will hint at the classic early ‘70s prog that’s become the foundation of so much modern doom, Mamont are never far from their tonal weight throughout the album’s manageable eight-track/42-minute sprawl. One can hardly blame them for sticking to what works. They use it well, as in the bellbottomed break halfway into “Blind Man (Part III)” – a sequel to “Blind Man (Part II)” from their prior and janglier self-titled EP, released in May of this year (review here) and presumably a first “Blind Man” that appeared earlier – which leads to a shuffle and one of Passing through the Mastery Door’s most irresistible grooves.
But even though they hold fast to their Big Muffs, it’s those little moments where they click off that in large part come to define the mood of Mamont’s full-length debut, which is one more way in which “Mammuten” makes for a solid leadoff as birdsongs lead to the initial thrust of fuzz before the more psychedelic side of the band is shown. Whether it’s the winding lead lines of “Creatures,” the not-to-be-ignored build in “Jad Sår Ett Frö,” or even the cooly ethereal bass-led stretch of “Stonehill Universe” in which the title line of the album is languidly delivered before a start-stop chorus of heavy guitar, Mamont gradually show a dynamic sensibility to their approach that – while burgeoning as one might expect it to be on a band’s first outing – proves effective in offseting some of the heavier push of air in those tracks and the more direct “The Secret of the Owl.” That leaves only the naturalist interlude “Woods” and closer “Satans Fasoner” (which translates to “Damn Manners” according to Google and may or may not actually have anything to do with the devil) to summarize and blend the varied sides of Mamont’s musical personality, which they do, though in all honestly, the real fun of Passing through the Mastery Door is the journey, not the arrival. From the nod-inducing “Mammuten” and energetic kick of “Jad Sår Ett Frö,” Mamont’s fuzz, however it might lumber pacing-wise, is not without movement, and with strong interplay between the hugeness of the guitar and bass tones and the echoing space in the vocals, by the time they shift their focus to the darker vibe of “Creatures” (also the longest track on the album at 6:39, though not by all that much), the trip on which they’re still just beginning to embark seems one that much more worth taking, Victor’s bass emerging as a key element in conveying both the band’s allegiance to stoner groove and the nascent chemistry between the players in the band as they jam out the midsection of “Creatures” before bringing back a final chorus.
That’s not to underplay the value of Karl and Jonathan’s guitars, however, which set the course on Passing through the Mastery Door as much as guitar ever does in heavy rock and heavy psych, riffs leading rhythms, solos building on them melodically. Even as Victor and Jimmy hold down the groove of “Blind Man (Part III),” the bluesy runs on guitar (and the sleepy vocals complementing) give the song its personality. Likewise in the more active parts of “Stonehill Universe,” which seems to find the quiet verses stepping aside for Mamont’s instrumental side (the start-stop riff there, met with cowbell, makes for a contrast like if The Doors at their most ambient met the balls-rock brashness of Mountain) to lead them into an overarching build by the end of it. But the structure in “Stonehill Universe” feels natural, and indeed, if Mamont present mastery anywhere on their debut, it’s here, as the track sets up its own culminating finish, teasing it first before finally offering release and giving way to Jimmy’s drums, which establish the beat to open “The Secret of the Owl,” carrying the momentum forward into the next song and demonstrating adeptness not just in songwriting but structuring the record as a whole as well and tracks play off each other. That kind of flow is prevalent throughout Passing through the Mastery Door, though perhaps nowhere near as much so as between “The Secret of the Owl,” “Woods” and aforementioned closer, “Satans Fasoner.” The birdsong that served as the intro to “Mammuten” is revived in the last couple seconds of “The Secret of the Owl” – note: it is not owls hooting – and carries into the 2:54 “Woods,” on which acoustic guitar acts as a foundation for a bluesy lead and a sweet overlaid melody. It’s an interlude, essentially, but so well placed in terms of shifting the atmosphere back to where the album started that I don’t want to detract from its value by naming it such. There are no vocals, but an open, airy vibe persists, and sets up the punch in the face that comes as a result of “Satans Fasoner”’s launch. The last cut isn’t by any means the band’s most dynamic, but some tempo changes and a memorable chorus go a long way toward leaving a lasting final impression – Jimmy introducing the last run with a short but engaging drum solo. Mamont’s first aligns them readily to the characteristics of the heavy rock genre, but already with the leap they’ve made from the Mamont EP to Passing through the Mastery Door – in less than a year’s time – the four-piece give much to look forward to in terms of development in tone and approach.
Tags: Mamont, Mamont Passing through the Mastery Door, Ozium Records, Passing through the Mastery Door, Sweden