Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn

All band names are stupid. It’s a fairly brutal, sweeping statement, but one that becomes harder to argue against the more you think about it. We only forget it in relation to the names of even our most favourite bands through repetition.  Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard have probably thought about this more than most, which is why that opening sentence constitutes the vast majority of their biography on the social media profiles. They join the likes of Atomic Bitchwax and Alabama Thunderpussy with having a name which perfectly describes the band without doing so explicitly, and is tremendous fun to say, but you wouldn’t necessarily talk about them to your nan.  

The other statement that makes up the remainder of that biography is ‘Doom is dead’. It’s fairly safe to assume, considering this is their third album of long, slow, down-tuned riff odysseys, that this statement is largely tongue in cheek – but surely nobody who comes up with a name like Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is going to be taking life especially seriously anyway. However, it is important to stress at this stage that although there is obviously a seam of humour running through what they do, they are not a joke or cartoon band.

There may be some deeper meaning, too, to album title Yn Ol I Annwn, but it is not immediately apparent. It’s probably not, after some investigation, an anagram. What the album name and the remainder of the song titles – like “The Spaceships of Ezekiel” and “Fata Morgana” –  bring to mind is the USS Enterprise crash-landing in Middle Earth. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard garnish their primeval riffs with a scattering of strings, and a variety of vintage synth sounds. These embellishments help the band take a step or two away from the rather crowded pack of doom bands. Then they take several strides further in that direction the moment singer Jessica Ball opens her mouth.

Rather than the de rigeur monotone bellowing one might normally expect, Jessica tops out Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s sound with delicate, ethereal melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place being sung over downtempo, chillout electronica or jangly indie pop. On paper, this might appear jarring, but in practice it immediately makes sense, with the juxtaposition enhancing the qualities of each component instead of setting them in conflict with each other.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard give their ideas plenty of room to breathe on Yn Ol I Annwn, definitely taking the view that if a riff is worth playing once, it is worth playing eight times. At least. Numerous tracks push up to – and beyond – the ten minute mark, with the repetitions taking on a hypnotic quality. These riffs are something of a masterclass in ‘simple but effective’. The stripped back, largely unburnished approach means that every note matters, and it has been thoughtfully placed. As a result, it’s easy to lose track of time nodding away to these riffs, making it feel a lot shorter than its 60+ minute runtime.

The synths and strings are equally tastefully applied, sitting comfortably in the middle of the mix instead. Often tracking with the guitars to thicken out the sound even further than the thorough drenching in sludge provided by their tones. “The Magestic Clockwork” provides a neat example, with a staccato riff starting on (potentially) a cello before being joined by the guitars. The electronic elements gently bubble and murmur, adding some tasteful movement to the instrumental passages. They keep their edges smooth and rounded rather than harsh and spiky, so the album contains no unpleasant shocks or surprises.

Yn Ol I Annwn is the aural equivalent of a long soothing soak in a warm bubble bath. Albeit a bubble bath of riffs. Definitely an album to listen to as you unwind after a night out rather than one to fire you up at the start of the evening and possibly not something to be heard whilst operating heavy machinery, it is a leisurely meander through territory that generally feels a lot bleaker than Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s take on the genre, and it is a refreshing and welcome break from the norm. Smoke ’em I’d you’ve got ’em. 

Yn Ol I Annwn is available March 1 via Cargo Records UK.

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