Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll: Crushing Ether


It is almost too easy to get caught up in the surface-level presentation of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. One sees their name — and by now, even the band were inclined, it’s probably too late to change that; a side-effect of actually being good and gaining some measure of recognition for it — and hears the dominant murk in the guitars of Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon and the bass of Jessica Ball set to the roll of James “Carrat” Carrington‘s drums and thinks it’s easy to figure out. But even with the ultra-dense production provided by Conan‘s Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios, the Wrexham, UK, four-piece have more to offer on their second LP, Y Proffwyd Dwyll (“false prophets”) than tonal excess and post-Electric Wizard nod.

When New Heavy Sounds released the band’s 2015 debut, Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), they referred to Jessica Ball as the group’s “secret weapon” because of the melodic resonance her vocals brought to their material. Not sure how one can be a secret while fronting the band, but the point is taken. I’d argue that on the follow-up LP, if there’s a weapon that shines in Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s arsenal, it’s the songwriting. That’s also where one finds the greatest evidence of creative progression coming off Noeth Ac Anoeth and the 30-minute Nachthexen single (review here) before it. At six tracks/48 minutes, Y Proffwyd Dwyll is shorter on the whole and in its individual pieces than anything on its predecessor, opening with its longest cut (immediate points) “Valmasque” at 9:40 and giving an immediate sense of memorability to the flow that follows.

Second perhaps to the overarching growth in craftsmanship, the atmospheric elements at play throughout Y Proffwyd Dwyll are important to note. All four members of the band, BallDaviesLeon and Carrington, contribute synth at one point or another, and it has a great effect on the sound and mood, and not just on a cut like instrumental side A closer “Gallego.” One can hear space rock-style swirl in the title-track and beneath the guitar of “Testudo,” fleshing out the mix and distinguishing Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard from the likes of Windhand. Amid the chug and crash of “Valmasque” and the march that emerges in the second half of the subsequent title-track, this experimental edge serves to bolster the songs, and in combination with the layers of Ball‘s vocals and the aforementioned tonal onslaught, it makes Y Proffwyd Dwyll a richer listen entirely.

Taken in combination with the added sense of structure that, admittedly, began to show itself on Noeth Ac Anoeth but was perhaps obscured by the inclusion there of the half-hour-long “Nachthexen,” Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard come across throughout as a band who’ve found their sound and are ready to take on the task of moving forward and refining it. Already that process seems to be in motion as “Testudo,” “Osirian” and “Cithuula” comprise the album’s second half, rolling out with patience and doom-charged grandiosity — looking at you, “Osirian” — as tempo shifts, breaks, feedback and dramatic layering are all put to skilled use.


Again, one could listen to those songs or “Valmasque,” “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” and “Gallego” and simply be wowed by the bludgeoning at hand — I’m not even sure that would be a wrong way to hear it — but it would mean missing at least half the point of what Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are doing and ignoring the development they’ve clearly undertaken.

An even more telling moment of arrival takes place with “Cithuula.” After “Testudo” and “Osirian” confirm and build on what “Valmasque” and “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” accomplished on side A, the closer is all the more a standout because of its length, its pace and the fact that unlike “Gallego,” it’s not instrumental. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard have galloped before — that’s not necessarily new for them — but as they build into the last push of “Cithuula” are beating out a couple verses, cut short and are led into the payoff by Ball‘s vocals, they bring about their most engaging stretch to-date what feels like the most forward-thinking and hook they’ve yet realized. Almost like they’re giving a glimpse at what comes next.

Of course, that may or may not actually be the case. I don’t know when one song was written as opposed to the others and time doesn’t always matter in those instances, but as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard make ready to return their audience to a reality not comprised of ethereal moodiness and air thrust through cabinets driven by burning tube amps, they do so with a progressive edge that only 18 months ago seemed like a remote possibility. Like the emphasis on synth across the board helping to construct an atmospheric personality, the closer broadens the context of the tracks surrounding, making Y Proffwyd Dwyll a more complete experience front to back.

Yes, they have a silly moniker, and yes, when played loud, their songs have headbang-worthy groove and a crush to rival anyone you might want to situate in their path. These things are true. But if Y Proffwyd Dwyll demonstrates anything it’s that the story of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard isn’t necessarily defined by either of them alone as so many bands are, and that they’re working quickly on a development that’s just beginning to mark out the terms of its true potential.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll (2016)

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