Review & Track Premiere: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, ‘Eagduru’ track premiere

[Stream Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ‘Eagduru’ by clicking play above. The Totems split LP with Slomatics is out in March via Black Bow Records and available to preorder here.]

“Exceptional” can be a pretty lofty mark by its nature, but Totems, hits it on a number of levels. The split release between Welsh and Northern Irish crushers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics — issued with the significant endorsement of founding Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis through his Black Bow Records imprint — probably won’t offer an abundance of surprises to those familiar with the bands or their methods, but in coming together across the five tracks and two sides of this limited vinyl, they reach a degree of impact that not only few splits manage, but go even further convey a spirit of sonic kinship that the Samantha Muljat cover art would seem to recognize: a single figure standing with her back to the viewer, a sword raised to a surrounding landscape. We don’t know if it’s ritual, defiance or an attack, but there’s a sense of union between the woman and that weapon, and the same applies between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics throughout Totems in a way that is genuinely rare.

Side A brings two tracks in the extended “The Master and His Emissary” (12:30) and “Eagduru” (11:03) from Wrexham’s Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, whose ethereal and melodically-focused brand of riff-rolling doom was last heard on their engaging sophomore long-player,Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), which came out via New Heavy Sounds in 2016 and lived up to the promise the band showed in the prior grimness of Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), their 2015 debut. Comprised of vocalist/bassist Jessica Ball, guitarists Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon, and drummer James “Carrat” Carrington — and perhaps as their moniker would indicate — Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are no strangers to being willfully cumbersome.

Both of their full-lengths and the prior 2015 half-hour-long single-track EP, Nachthexen (review here), worked in longer forms, and so what they bring to Totems in “The Master and His Emissary” and “Eagduru” feels very much in their wheelhouse of grooving largesse and layers of otherworldly echoing vocals from Ball, whose harmonies lay out over top of the proceedings masterfully without dominating the mix, but there’s progression to be heard in their style as well. The elements they’re working with, from the deceptively active hook of “The Master and His Emissary” to the hypnotic tumble of “Eagduru,” which fades in with an intense build of chug before unfolding a sprawl that seems to ensnare the listener as it plays out, and, like some slow herbal poison, drain them of their consciousness — a compliment, mind you; this is precisely what the track is intended to do — are more recognizably their own, and while one can still draw a line from the likes of Windhand in terms of influence, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard set themselves up here to fully establish their style as individual, and thereby greatly raise expectations for the kind of achievement they might attain with their next album proper. They may not think of it this way, and in fact one hopes they don’t, but they’re throwing down a gauntlet for themselves with these tracks and setting a high standard to be surpassed.

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems 8-bit

What they’re not doing — and this is perhaps where Totems is at its most exceptional — is competing with the side B onslaught from Belfast three-piece Slomatics. In its info for the release, Black Bow calls Totems a “collaboration” rather than a “split” and while I’d generally take that to indicate the two groups were working together as one unit — which, to the best of my knowledge, they didn’t — they are exceedingly well paired to complement each other’s work. In addition, having both recorded at Skyhammer Studio with Conan bassist Chris Fielding at the helm — who’s a stranger to neither act, having produced both Y Proffwyd Dwyll and Slomatics‘ 2016 fifth LP, Future Echo Returns (review here) — there’s a consistency of sound and a blend of spacious atmosphere in “Ancient Architects” (8:29), the ambient instrumental/interlude “Silver Ships into the Future” (3:49) and “Master’s Descent” (8:30) that helps create the full-album-style flow that so much bolsters the front-to-back listening experience of Totems.

This would seem to be something of which the bands themselves were aware going into the split’s making, since we see in Slomatics‘ closing “Master’s Descent” a mirror or at least a nod toward Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s opener, “The Master and His Emissary.” Whether that’s indicative of an overarching narrative between the bands across the five tracks, I can’t confirm, but it speaks to the coherence of the delivery throughout Totems, which is yet another element making it an outlier from the norm as regards split releases in a positive way. Further, as Slomatics — the returning trio of guitarists Chris Couzens and David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey — tumble out riffs like they’re pushing their grooves down flights of stairs in the second half of “Ancient Architects” and roll through “Master’s Descent” in a fashion that recalls some of Future Echo Returns‘ most triumphant moments while still feeling expanded outward from them — “epic” is the word, though one is generally loath to use it — they remind via the curveball cinematic keyboard of “Silver Ships into the Future” that their approach is as much about reach as it is about crush.

While it’s easy to write off superficially as “just an interlude,” “Silver Ships into the Future”  is effective as well in emphasizing the linear feel of Totems and precisely the sort of sonic detail for which the split will no doubt stand as one of the finest joint offerings of 2018. There are a lot of reasons two groups might pair up. Maybe they’re touring together and need something for a merch table. Maybe they’re friends and just want to work together on a project. Maybe they were directed to do so by a label or shared management or something of that sort. Totems, at least going by the impression left behind from the release itself — boot-shaped-and-on-skull as it is — is once again of a rarer breed here, in that it comes across more as a creative expression than a matter of convenience or logistics. One finds shared intent between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics in aesthetic drive, and that proves to be the ultimate difference when it comes to Totems‘ exceptionality. From concept to production to execution to presentation, it works so as to make itself utterly essential. Recommended.

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One Response to “Review & Track Premiere: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split”

  1. Chris says:

    Excellent review, dude! This is hands down the best split I’ve ever heard.

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