Posted in On the Radar on April 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Irish bashers Weed Priest do it big on their self-titled debut. Exclusively. The six-track collection of thoroughly stoned riffs and burly echoes arrives in a green-tinted matte-finish digipak that gives little hint of the heft actually contained within the trio’s dark, vaguely cultish material, and it’s already received a due amount of “OMG”eification from critics drawn in by the album’s downtrodden melange of cycle after cycle of lumbering largesse, riff building on riff through telegraphed changes at minimal but still grooving paces, only ever getting up to speed to slouch back into its apparently terminal atmospheric defeat. Well fine. The record sounds big. And it’s heavy. There. I said it too.
More than that — because fucking everything is heavy — Weed Priest‘s Weed Priestis impeccably produced to maximize that heaviness, and though one might think I’m just gearing up to toss out an Electric Wizard comparison, I’m actually not going to do it. The Galway-based trio of Adrian Elatha (drums), Ragas Walpurgis (bass) and Adam de Monlung (guitar/vocals) have way, way more in common with Sleep than they do with thee Wizard — who are otherwise responsible for so much of the weedian fare coming out of the Isles — but I guess if you want to take it all to its most primordial level, it’s all Sabbath at heart, and Weed Priest show little interest in shying away from that, a Zoroaster-type semi-psychedelia emerging out of the Ufomammut-style stomp of their extended opener “Final Spell.” It’s a cool sound, and they put it to solid use across the self-titled, the cavernous vocal sound giving even the shorter “Erichtho” — a paltry seven minutes long — a consistency in its sense of space with the opener or the later “Weed Priest” and “Day of Reckoning” to come.
The band formed in 2008, this is their first official release following a 2011 demo, and if what you’re looking for is a bash-you-over-the-head-with-tone onslaught of pot and horror worship (a clip from the 1972 movie The Devil starts off), then there’s little about Weed Priest‘s Weed Priestthat isn’t going to be your favorite new Bandcamp link. A marching chug on “Walpurgia” pretty much sums up the crux of the full-length: It’s not about reinventing stoner metal or doom so much as taking the familiar and making it their own. I don’t know if caking it in reverb is enough to get that done over a long term, but they did hit on a distinct sound for their first long-player that at least gives them a base to work from next time out, and as “Thy Kingdom Gone” adds to the psychedelic push in its midsection en route to the massive one-two punch of “Weed Priest” and “Day of Reckoning,” there’s nothing to say Weed Priest don’t have something to offer beneath their resin-coated exterior for those who’d pay their debut repeat visits.
I’d be interested to hear how they cut their runtime down perhaps to accommodate a future vinyl offering, hitting around 40 minutes instead of Weed Priest‘s just under 61, but the longer stretch does work well to emphasize the repetition and the put-you-in-a-trance riffs, which seem to find their own morass between “Weed Priest” (11:14) and “Day of Reckoning” (13:52), neither song so much wandering into a jam as hammering down upon its central idea. For a bit of symmetry, “Day of Reckoning” echoes the sluggish thud of “Final Spell,” but really, it’s a symmetry that’s been present throughout the largely unipolar release, and though there are hints of melody in the guitar here and there, they’re so buried under the tonnage of the ultra-pivotal riffs around which the song is based, that it’s hard to keep focus on anything but that. Which is the idea. Which is why it works.
To date, they’re not revolutionaries or anything like that, but I like Swedish four-piece Mamont. I dug their EP well enough, but with the cumbersomely-titled 2012 debut full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here), it was easy to hear they were beginning a process of coming into their own, and that sensibility I almost always find exciting in an album. The band, based in Nyköping and Stockholm and previously interviewed here, seem bent on doing the work of a genuine creative progression — both in their songwriting and in terms of putting in time on the road — and in their new video for the track “Stonehill Universe,” they show that even a simple performance clip of a group in a room (or two) still has space to show a bit of individuality. I’m not the betting type, but I’m looking forward to hearing what Mamont do next, and this is fun in the meantime.
Posted in On the Radar on January 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A four-piece hailing from Romania, Methadone Skies waste no time busying themselves balancing ethereal post-rock noodling off heavier-ended psychedelic grooves. Periodically driving but never quite losing its focus despite an obvious jam-based ethic, their second album, Enter the Void, arrived in 2012 as a self-released sleeve CD preceding an allegiance with Sweden-based Ozium Records. The six-track offering sandwiches lengthy explorations with even lengthier explorations, the opening title-track topping out at 13:36 as the longest of the bunch (immediate points) while its closing companion piece, “Exit the Void” answers back at 11:54. Between, “Hyperspace,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” “Versus Evil,” and “Mudstar” tap into modern heavy psych ethics like they’re trying to bridge the gap between Russian Circles and Colour Haze. Frankly, it’s not a bad gap to bridge.
Both guitarists — Wehry and the more effects-laden Casi, who also handles keys — satisfy on a tonal level, with rich and warm fuzz that melds well with the echoing lead notes peppered throughout, as one can hear in the second half of “Hyperspace” on Enter the Void. The bass and drums provided by Mihai and Retea, respectively, are mostly relegated to a follower’s role, but as “Hyperspace” slows to its finish and “Long Day’s Journey into Night” ensues, their presence is more than duly felt in the added heft to the capably executed instrumental builds, which seem to be as much about going from spaced-out to grounded as from calm to chaotic. It works, perhaps most of all on “Versus Evil” — the lead lines of which I’ll mark as the most memorable on the album — which finds its culmination after six minutes into its total 9:33 as the two guitars match step with the complex rhythm for a thickened, oddly-timed apex.
The level of noodling might be too much for some. They’re not exactly subtle about it. But for Methadone Skies‘ second outing behind 2010′s Explosions of the Sun, Enter the Void can offer an engrossing listen if approached with an open mind and willingness to go along with its hypnotic aspects. “Mudstar” is a bit crunchier, but “Exit the Void” re-ups the space elements and gives a solid tripout to close with, the leads taking a more active role early on with a cascading line only to give way later to thicker entanglements before ending with even more echoing riffery and a surprisingly quick fade. One might have expected a long sustained echo or something like that, but I guess at 53 minutes in, Methadone Skies figured they’d said all there was to say. True enough, if you haven’t gotten the point by then, well, yeah.
Swedish fuzz merchants Mamont know what they like. Their debut Ozium Records full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here) is a collection of thickened stonerly grooves and heavy rocking jams, casting off the retro feel of the EP they recorded last year (review here) to take on a more modern style. It’s a time-tested formula, but the band use it to their advantage throughout the album’s eight tracks, chopping up familiar elements to recombine them into the massive stomp of “Mammuten” or the classic psychedelic quirk of “Stonehill Universe.”
The “new” recording aesthetic suits them well. The guitars of Karl Adolfsson and Jonathan Wårdsäter lead throughout with heavily Muff’ed distortion, bassist Victor Wårdsäter and drummer Jimmy Karlsson holding together the fuzzy expanses the music seems to be describing. They’re not quite through the mastery door yet in terms of settling the issue of their approach for once and all and thus halting creative growth — though the album is remarkably cohesive — but if the second-half jam of “The Secret of the Owl” is anything to go by, they’re enjoying the process of getting there up to this point.
With birdsong scattered throughout Passing through the Mastery Door, in the intro to the album at the beginning of “Mammuten” or before the penultimate interlude “Woods” takes hold with its sweet-sounding, acoustic-based serenity, Mamont offer a natural feel and never veer from that course throughout the record’s 42 minutes. Because this laid back vibe is pervasive, it’s easy to see them as aligned somewhat to the jammed-out sphere of modern European heavy psych, but Mamont are more straightforward in their songwriting and more traditionally stoner in their scope to really make that the case. In concept and execution, they stand out.
And in part, it was because of that that I hit up Karlsson with Six Dumb Questions, which he was kind enough to field with the answers below:
1. Tell me about the writing process for Passing through the Mastery Door. Was there something specific you wanted to do differently after the EP? It seems like the album came together pretty quickly. When were the songs written?
The plan was to first do a new EP with some songs that we had written last year. We liked the retro feeling on the old one, but we had started to experiment more with fuzz and wanted the next recording to have a more tone of stoner.
Then Ozium Records contacted us and wanted to sign the band. We said “fuck yeah” and started directly to discuss a full album. We didn’t have so much time to rehearse because I am studying in Stockholm (one hour from our hometown Nyköping), and we also had a lot of shows in the weekends.
Everyone seems to think that our old EP was released this year, but we recorded it 2011. It just got known to people outside Sweden earlier this year.
I came to live in Nyköping again in June and we had less than two weeks to prepare the album before we hit the studio. Three of the songs (“Creatures,” “Stonehill Universe” and “The Secret of the Owl”) were older ones that we have played a lot. The rest of the album was in fact done under these two weeks.
We then had one very intense week in Deep Blue Studios in Nyköping, the same studio where the EP was recorded. The song “Woods” is actually just the result of a jam in the studio. We wanted the album to land for a while, to then give you a punch in the face with “Satans Fasoner” (directly translated to Satan’s manners and means damn manners).
It was a bit of surreal feeling when the Swedish Armed Force had exercises in the area around the studio that week. Armed soldiers and tanks everywhere, and it was a hell of a job to record the beautiful birdsong we have on the album, because of the fucking helicopters.
2. One of the most striking differences between the EP and the full-length to me is the tone and how much thicker the album sounds. Was this done on purpose? What do you feel like a thicker tone gives to the band?
Yes, it was really on purpose. The three songs on the EP don’t have the heavy weight we want. And they’re much more stoner and heavy live. When we started the band the idea was to raise a creature that would become a big fucking runaway mammoth. The tone of the new album was set seconds after the song “Mammuten” (the mammoth) was written.
But we also really wanted to have the retro feeling and some psychedelic elements left. I think we have a good balance between the 70’s retro rock and the 90’s heavy stoner. A mix of everything we love.
3. I know the line is taken from the track “Stonehill Universe,” but what was behind choosing Passing through the Mastery Door for the album’s title? Was there something particular about that line or that song that stuck out in your minds?
That’s right. When we sat in the rehearse room Karl suddenly wrote the line on the over scribbled whiteboard. We looked at it and loved it. The album is a story and a journey, when you listen to it you choose to pass through the door. What then happens no one can know for sure. “Stonehill Universe” is the oldest song on the album and its lyrics and message reflect the entire album, the mastery door.
4. Sweden has a long history of so many great bands. Are there any Swedish artists who inspire what you do in Mamont? What is the heavy rock culture or scene like in Stockholm for a band like Mamont, releasing your first album? How has the response been to the band live?
A hell of a lot good Swedish bands inspire Mamont. Sometimes we feel very lucky to live in this small country that’s overfilled with really great bands. They’re everywhere and it’s awesome to get the privilege to play and get to know them.
Our influences come from both Swedish ‘70s prog rock and more modern stoner rock. Mamont is like a mix of the legendary band November and today’s Truckfighters. It’s a good description I think, if you want it on paper.
The heavy rock scene is really boiling right know in Sweden. In just a couple of years the stoner scene has grown as hell and a lot of underground bands have started to build up a wonderful family feeling with each other. The first album couldn’t come out in a better time. There’s a large wave of sand washing over right know and we’re on it. And yes, it’s sand. We played in a huge sandpit this summer. KrökbackenFestival was arranged by some dudes from Mushroom Caravan Overdrive. That place had a magical feeling and so much great underground bands. It really showed the face and future of the great Swedish heavy rock scene.
We have played the songs on the album live this summer and fall and the response has been fantastic. We’re from the small town Nyköping but we hope that we have built up a good reputation in Stockholm. The release party showed proof on that when it was packed full with a long queue outside the entire night.
5. There are a few shows coming up this month and in November/December, but will Mamont tour outside of Sweden to support the album? Are there any other gigs in the works maybe for 2013?
We have played really much recently and are now working on getting more gigs. Unfortunately we don’t have any shows planned for 2013, yet. We want to play as much as possible but right now we only can support the album live in Scandinavia.
But a discussion about touring Europe is going on right now. That’s our goal and we hope it will be true next summer or fall.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
For the people that hate the CD format, we have some good news coming up.
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.
Posted in On the Radar on April 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The world isn’t exactly lacking for Swedish groovy retro. In the wake of Graveyard‘s multinational footprint, a shift has taken place in Sweden’s already formidable heavy underground, toward vintage gear and old soul, and while you won’t hear me complain, there’s an element of familiarity amidst the fuzz. For Nyköping double-guitar foursome Mamont, however, there’s a blend with a more modern influence that comes through as well, so that you couldn’t strictly call their first, three-track EP retro any more than you could say it belongs to today’s heavy psych scene. Those elements are there, no argument, but they’re not alone.
Being something of a nerd for Swedish rock in general, I was anxious to check out Mamont‘s first outing, which they have streaming over at their Thee Facebooks, and whether it’s their reinterpretation of Black Sabbath‘s “The Wizard” for the opening riff of “Carnal Desire” or the Witch-esque moan guitarist Karl Adolfsson works into his vocals for “Blind Man,” there always seems to be substance behind the hooks and the by-now recognizable jangle in his and fellow six-stringer Jonathan Wårdsäter‘s riffing. Likewise, “Blind Man” breaks into a natural-sounding jam held firmly together by the rhythm section of bassist Victor Wårdsäter and drummer Jimmy Karlsson, and closer “Crack in the Sky” is even more focused on the instrumental side of their approach, working in a perfunctory verse before putting its head down and jamming out once more.
With so much happening on Europe’s heavy psych circuit at this point and Sweden’s already-noted retro leanings, there’s an interesting blend of sides playing out on Mamont‘s EP, and as it’s the precursor to a full-length reportedly due this fall on Ozium Records, it seems like a good time to get introduced. I wouldn’t be surprised if the album had even more jamming, but either way, it’ll be fun to see where the young band wind up with their explorations. They’re on Facebook, as noted, and Spotify, and they don’t have an embed-read player at this point, but you’ll find a live version of “Carnal Desire” set to still photos in the Vimeo clip below.