Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mammoth Volume - ...a single book of songs

pardon the janky pic I posted of this album cover. It's really not that interesting anyways, but that is part of the appeal of the album. I need to scan it myself and post a good jpg, and maybe I will at some point. Promises promises. This album is rather personal to me as Daniel Gustafsson, the guitarist has become quite a good friend over the years over email. When this album came out in 2001, I was pretty stunned. My drummer at the time owned a record store and played me the promo. We couldn't figure out if they were trying to be stoner rock, prog or emo. I guess it was all three really. This album came out some months before "Songs For The Deaf" from QOTSA, at least a year before that kind of stuff became the "it" sound for a hot minute. There is a lot of Kyuss in Jorgen's vocals, and alot of King Crimson and Canterbury prog when the band gets to show it (which is often) and an equal helping of Fu Manchu/MC5 when they open up and rock. There is a healthy dose of folk prog and a proliferation of mellotrons, organs, glockenspiels and flutes when the band deems it necessary, and apparently they deem it necessary in the strangest spots sometimes. We couldn't figure out what they were trying to go for, and the band seems none too focused at some points as well, but the results were pretty jaw dropping. They get one of the most natural sounding recordings I have ever heard. It's all room sounds and mic placement (Kalle Berlin gets a bass sound I would trade my eyeballs for.) It's not nearly as self consciously "retro" sounding as fellow Swede travellers Dungen, but it sounds sufficiently 'dusty.' I can't tell if that was willful, or if it was out of necessity, but man, this record sounds unique and GOOD! I have most of Dungen's recordings, and I have most of MV's recordings, and MV recordings would go with me to a desert island first. This album is definitely a slept on classic. Why overhyped, mediocre boogie metal like Alabama Thunderpussy and Orange Goblin got all the attention escapes me. For my money, Mammoth Volume were making interesting, well recorded hard rock and most of the rest of the stoner genre was just so much tepid rehash.

Back when I was absolutely obsessed with this album, I went on the bands website and hit the bios of the individual members. The other three guys had rather dry lists of their gear and maybe a sentence or two about their lives, and general things like "I like beer" or something. Daniel's was an exhaustive and detailed list of the gear he used on the recording of the album and a rambling thesis on what he listened to and how it influenced what he wrote for the album. (btw, he wrote my favorite song on the album: "What Happened In Antioch including A Myriad Of Sounds" [song within a song, how Crimson.] How about a parentheses inside a parentheses?) I hadn't heard of SHIT he had named, entire progressive rock genres like RIO, Zeuhl, and Canterbury and I had no idea what I was in for. I emailed him out of the blue and asked for more recommendations. From that, we started a pan-atlantic freundschaft that endures to this day. At some point over the next couple of months, I ran across a copy of the very Henry Cow album I posted some time back - Leg End. I heard it and flipped and from there started ordering his recommendations. I went a little nuts, and I still do whenever I find something from Univers Zero or Thinking Plague, two bands I discovered from his emails and love to no end.

After 6 or 7 years of sparse and sporadic activity, MV decided to finally put it to bed this past year, to the disappointment of probably a few hundred die-hards like myself. They never even completed an LP's worth of material for a suitable follow up and only released a 5 song collection of MP3's from their website over the last year. It's all good stuff, they never released anything that was terrible and it's all worth purchasing, but "...a single book of songs" is a crowning achievement. It's one of those albums that you either have to BETTER with your next album, or spend the rest of your career trying to recreate the magic. This one would be awfully hard to better. It's an epic wad-blow that was obviously painstakingly crafted from beginning to end. I've never gotten to make an album like that. I DO know how hard it is to make an album of tepid stoner rehash be even remotely well received, and I know how draining it was to get THAT much finished, let alone something that a vast amount of thought, time and creativity went into.

1 comment:

Chairmaker said...

This post is right on. Mammoth Volume were one of the only 'stoner' bands that stood out among all the retread stuff that dominates the genre (and yeah, they got me to take another look at some prog too). I love this album and also really liked the 'return of the mammoth vokume' songs...wish they'd released a bit more stuff.