Review & Video Premiere: Mangoo, The Heat

mangoo the heat

[Click play above to check out the premiere of Mangoo’s official video for ‘Relief.’ Their third album, The Heat, is out Dec. 8 on Small Stone Records.]

Heat is a catalyst. When you heat something up, its molecules move faster, become more active. Aside from frogs in slow-boiling pots of water, when someone touches something hot, they’re going to react, and one can’t help but wonder if that’s not what Turku, Finland-based heavy rockers Mangoo had in mind for their third album, The Heat. Something that would provoke a response. Something to get the blood moving. A reason for heads to bang and asses to shake. It would be hard to argue they didn’t get there on The Heat, which comprises a nearly-unmanageable 11 tracks/53 minutes of pro-shop song construction, crisply recorded and sharply delivered, heavy rock and roll.

Following two years after a split with UK space-metallers Enos (review here) and half a decade after their Small Stone debut, 2012’s Neverland (review here), the long-player marks the returning lineup of vocalist/guitarist Richard “Pickles” Dahllund, guitarist/backing vocalist Mathias “Mattarn” Åkerlund, bassist/backing vocalist Igor del Toro, drummer/backing vocalist Teemu Pulkkinen and keyboardist/backing vocalist/noisemaker/engineer Niklas Björklund as veterans of the form early, fleshing out melodic arrangements with a fullness of keys and fuzz tone that’s nether overbaked nor underweight. Pickles holds command as a frontman for almost the entire duration, relinquishing forward position only on the Spanish-language “Tiembla” to del Toro, who takes on lead vocals, and behind him, the band conjures grooving largesse on the title-track, resonant, Euro-radio-worthy hooks on cuts like opener “Relief” and the subsequent “Get Away,” and a fervent charge on “Deification” that offsets the semi-twang of “Beyond the Sky” and the psychedelic garage jangle of “Monolith.”

If that sounds a little broad as regards the general spectrum, it is, and that stylistic restlessness is a theme Mangoo — whose moniker seems truly unfortunate until one learns to pronounce it properly as “man-go” — continue from Neverland. Five years later, however, they are more mature as a group and as people, and whether it’s the rolling bassline that underscores the patient, harmony-topped fluidity in the second half of “Beyond the Sky” or the later solo in the angular boogie of “Stumbling Man,” which straightens out to a particularly satisfying hook near its finish, the vibe here is cohesive front to back and Mangoo never seem to leave an element out of its proper place.

mangoo

One might debate whether in the vinyl-minded late-’10s, The Heat really needs to be 2LP length, or at very least to border thereupon, but with such a chunk of time between their last offering (which also was not short) and this one, a glut of material makes some sense in context, and ultimately it does not hold Mangoo back from effectively stating their point. As to what that might be, one should look again at the subtle diversity of craft on display throughout the tracks. The production by Björklund — on which everyone else receives a co-credit — is a unifying factor to such a degree that on a superficial level, The Heat might seem to take a singular approach, but the truth is Mangoo adopt a range of approaches across these cuts, from the spacious and progressive heft of “One Day,” on which the guitars drift wide during the open verses only to resolidify around a massive and dramatic chorus, to the tense chugging, percussive nuance and slightly-jammed feel that hits in the penultimate “Grey Belly,” building to an apex that, even as it follows what would’ve seemed to be the culmination of the album in its titular cut, justifies its presence.

Feeling a bit more like an indulgence is the actual closer, which is a take on Eddie Murphy‘s 1985 single “Party all the Time,” which, while yes, it has a hook that borders on so catchy it’s infuriating, doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of The Heat‘s modus, despite the ’80s-esque airbrushed look of the Alexander von Wieding cover art. The sense one gets is that it’s Mangoo signaling their audience that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that they’re having a good time, or that maybe they’re prone as most groups are to the occasional inside joke, but after 10 solid original pieces of Dozer-worthy songwriting and borderline flawless studio execution from the metallic vibe of “Tiembla” to the theatrical spread conjured in “The Heat” itself, to turn that all on its head right as they cross the finish line almost takes away from the impact of the original pieces preceding.

That said, Mangoo are certainly entitled to enjoy themselves in the recording/studio process, and while “Party all the Time” might’ve been better left as an off-LP single or something like that, even more than 30 years on from its first release, it remains a furiously dug-in earworm and Mangoo do well to make it their own in terms of overall sound. Of course, the definition of “their own” has never sounded quite so fluid for the five-piece as it does here either, since they careen with such apparent ease between one side of their increasingly complex sonic persona and the next. Maybe in that spirit, there’s room for just about everything in the triumphant spacet-time reaches born of “Beyond the Sky” or “One Day,” including that last bit of partying. Fair enough. You win this round, Mangoo.

Mangoo, The Heat (2017)

Mangoo website

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Small Stone website

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The Heat at Small Stone Bandcamp

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