Monday, 23 April 2018

REVIEW: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, "Totems"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Split LP
Date Released: 29/03/2018
Label: Black Bow Records

Alter your mind, crank the volume, and worship two of the best of doom metal shaman delivering one of  the stand out releases of 2018 .

“Totems” DD//LP track listing

1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard The Master and His Emissary”
2. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard Eagduru!
3. Slomatics Ancient Architects”
4. Slomatics Silver Ships into the Future”
5. Slomatics Masters Descent”

The Review:

Last time I threw on a split album it was the fun, fast cross genre thrashing of Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper – one of those brief, appetite whetting samplers that made me want to search out more of the contributing bands’ back catalogues.  I really enjoy those kind of horizon broadening splits, but the ones that may stick with me most are the LP length collaborations by artists operating in even closer genre proximity.  Take, for example, “Totems” – a formidable, surprisingly cohesive split from young but powerful Welsh psychedelic doomsters Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and the long-running Irish stoner sludge trio of Slomatics.  Both acts take similar spacey, prog indebted approaches to their massive cuts so the LP stands out as a proper, unified album – but you can’t mistake the unique methods and voices on display between the Mammoth crew and Slomatics.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s opening cut, “The Master and His Emissary”, may be my favorite track on “Totems”.  Starting with a bass and synth intro, it plunges straight into space rock weirdness.  The ascending, chugging verse riff balances with ethereal, multi tracked vocals – largely those of bassist Jessica Ball.  Her delicate, clean tones, contrasted with the gnarly dual guitar heft of Wez Leon and “Dave” Davies, makes for an exciting, unique counterbalance of grim and graceful.  The unique emphasis on cymbal work, juxtaposed with persistent bass drum pounding from drummer James Carrington, is another standout trademark that had me intrigued by MWWB.  And just when I thought “hmmmm it would be interesting if they incorporated the synth intro back into this piece” the ‘Bastard went and did it!  Plus the closing guitar solo is just thrilling.  Unfortunately, after such an exciting opening, “Eagduru” feels like a bit of a disappointment.  A swaying, much more thudding doom dirge, it isn’t a bad cut by any means, but feels less structurally satisfying and complex than the trippy first track.  Ball’s vocals are again haunting and mystical – I’m impressed enough to want to explore the back catalogue.

Slomatics hardly need an introduction at this point, with nearly 15 years and releases in the double digits (including splits and a live LP).  But for me this is another gateway, as I’ve never taken the full plunge into their formidable back catalogue – another grievous error I plan to address immediately.  The heavy doom verses of “Ancient Architects”, countered by Fabrio Frizzi reminiscent synth laden refrains hit right in my metal/horror/scifi/weirdo nerd sweet spots, and I was hooked.  Drummer Marty’s clean vocals have just the right amount of grit, while his kit work is spot on.  Dual guitarists Chris and David are tone masters, shifting to a militaristic trudge in the pummeling midsection, only to crash everything to a tectonic crawl on the outro.  The fuzzed out phaser effects make the whole ending feel impossibly psychedelic, while retaining the paranoid edge of a bad acid freakout.

“Silver Ships into the Future” is a perfectly serviceable instrumental transition, primarily clean, slightly warped keyboards and some nice, menacing ambient tones.  But “Masters Descent” is a genuine work of stoner metal masters.  The savage riff and gently processed, reverb laden vocals is like a Kubrickian transit through time and space.  Marty’s jazzy fills, partnered with what sounds like Mellotron backing tracks, makes the doomy number sound like a haunting mashup with early King Crimson.  The chiming, synth laden, psych dirge latter half is a particularly nice touch, and the vocal work is particularly moving – trust me when I say that’s a disservice to the ineffable power when everything clicks into place for Slomatics.             

In short, “Totems” serves as one of those effective entreaties to explore more from the contributing bands, but also works as a powerful slab of metal, best enjoyed in one long, bleary eyed session, or staring into space and envisioning the types of otherworldly journeys Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics delve into with each new composition.  Alter your mind, crank the volume, and worship the “Totems” of these two linked tribes of doom metal shamans.

“Totems” is available here