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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard : Yn Ol I Annwn

The culmination of MWWB's first trilogy of full-length releases is a magnificently spacy and eclectic Stoner voyage.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - there's a name to conjure with, and not in a good way. Luckily, it's not taken in a particularly serious fashion (along with the claim that "doom is dead", the band also posit "all band names are stupid"), and - more to the point - neither it is an excuse to indulge in frivolous and artificially zany musical nonsense. It's just a name, and MWWB are just a band - by which I mean they're one of those outfits who simply do what they do, without much fuss, and the results are what they are.

Well, what they do is basically mix up a brew of lengthy, guitar-led pieces that contain fairly equivalent measures of Stoner and Post-rock, and lesser helpings of Prog, Sludge and Space-rock. It's Doom, sure, but not so much deliberately so as an inevitable byproduct of the massive heaviness and density of the backbone sound - in similar fashion, and sometimes with some resemblance, to bands like Megaton Leviathan, Sea Of Bones or Cybernetic Witch Cult.

It's not just riffs, though. the guitars take on plenty of tones and effects to spice things up, supplemented by the likes of cello, Moog and keyboards. The female vocals are an ethereal layer, drifting in and out of compositions, not overused, not always decipherable, but adding a significant touch of textural beauty to proceedings. At the other end of the scale, the percussion is dynamic, from the 'hit-it-like-you-mean-it' school of drumming, and - thankfully - though it rattles most of the kit on a regular basis, there's none of the emphasis on trebly cymbal-battering that so often intrudes into otherwise heavyweight Doom offerings.

So, that's the thumbnail sketch of MWWB, from their first 30-minute EP, the single-track 'Nachthexen' - released in 2015 - through "the trilogy" of full-length albums and taking in a split with Slomatics along the way. In 2017, the original four-piece line-up added a full-time bassist - the role previously having been filled by vocalist Jessica - but, other than that, the band has been steadily building on their original works without any hugely noticeable changes in the dynamics of their operation. Which brings us to the specifics of 2019's 'Yn Ol I Annwn'.

Whether the trio of albums is more of a triptych or an actual trilogy is hard to tell. They're linked by Welsh titles (though not songs, or song names), and by a glyph-like cover design, but there's no obvious story arc, or particular correlation between the different glyphs, running through them. More the former than the latter, I would guess, but - either way - 'Yn Ol I Annwn' is the culmination of it, with the art set against a backdrop of stars as the glyph launches into space. And that's pretty much what the album is: bigger, in all dimensions - bolder, spacier, clearer and better engineered, more confident and with wider instrumental textures, but still true to its earliest roots.

Just as an aside, It's nice to see that MWWB are old-school enough to value physical releases, and when I did finally take a real interest in them, it was nice to discover that pretty much all of their back catalogue is available on heavyweight vinyl - for this particular release, I elected for the blue/green double LP. Aesthetically very pleasing, though not too informative, which fits in with what the band told us in interview that they're quite happy with leaving the concepts open to listeners' interpretation. Anyway, whichever format you fire it up on, you could easily be forgiven for thinking this is a Tangerine Dream venture, as the sequencers and keys kick things off. It isn't long before that morphs into more Hawkwind-meets-3rd And The Mortal territory and, much as with the recent Gula debut release, there's a case to be made that this does have a certain commonality with Bridget Wishart's early-'90s stint as Hawkwind's vocalist. Where it diverges is that MWWB maintain a much heavier, and more varied, pool of sources: check out the cello and strings in 'Du Bist Jetzt...' for something which could have originated in early experimental Australian Black/Doom outfit Elegeion's softer side, or the thunderous 'Katyusha' for music which very much belongs to a more modern-day Post-/Sludge sound like, say, France's Herscher.

If that sounds like MWWB might be all over the place: rest assured, they aren't. This is tight as hell - the sound of a band who know what they're doing, and don't care how many genre boundaries they transgress in getting there. And as the album culminates in the sublime summation of 'Five Days In The Abyss', which pretty much lays all of those bare and visible - you really have to salute them for pulling all those strands together in increasingly effective ways over the course of their career. It's been something of an incremental but steady process, as the releases have moved not only to incorporate them in more distinct and developed fashion but also to take on a cleaner and more balanced production, and 'Yn Ol I Annwn' raises the game to sustain both over a filler-free hour-plus duration, a good fifteen minutes longer than any previous offering. A huge, spacy, diverse and compelling voyage, this is excellent stuff, and one to go on my "highlights for 2019" list.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Tralfamadore
2. The Spaceships Of Ezekiel
3. Fata Morgana
4. Du Bist Jetzt Nicht In Der Zukunft
5. Yn Ol I Annwn
6. Katyusha
7. The Majestic Clockwork
8. Five Days In The Abyss

Duration : Apoprox. 65 minutes

Visit the Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-06-05 by Mike Liassides
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