Well, this is unusual. Aside from the fact that this album was recorded over a two-day stretch, the truly unusual thing is that those two days of recording took place way back in 2014. After years in purgatory, this recording is finally getting a release in digital form, through Inverse Records. Well, make that a re-release, as the band already put it out on their own BandCamp last March, though given events at that time it’s understandable if it got buried by pandemic news.
Odd timelines aside, the band’s long-shelved debut is an enjoyable batch of heavy rock with a hard edge. Even if the songs themselves aren’t particularly ‘mammoth’ (the longest one is just a bit over six minutes), the double guitar approach of the quintet lets them flex some extra fuzz muscle while riding familiar-sounding heavy riffs. Given the brevity of the songs, the band is able to get in, do the essentials, and head on to the next song with little of the repetitive flab so common in the genre. Much of the music carries an upbeat vibe (think Thin Lizzy with lots of pedal effects, and you won’t be too far off), so while they may not be mean, they do keep things fairly lean.
Lyrically, things are a mixed bag. Reflections on rock and roll (consensus: it’s good) share space with tales of lost love, and it’s rare that a line will stand taller than the engulfing guitar buzz and bass. The latter, by the way, may just be the consistently strongest instrumental presence, whether going for doodly little walks (e.g., “Planet Mammoth”, which shows more than a slight “Planet Caravan” flavor) or plugging in support beneath strutting lead guitar. But the vocals tend to bring enough character and drive to the line delivery to steam-roll the issues of their thin content. Take “Greatest Lover” (originally the album opener, now bumped to track three) for example, where Jesse Etelämäki hits an almost Danzig-like infusion of bluesy verve. Or “Runaway”, where a line as much-used as “You’re gonna burn in Hell!”, repeated several times in succession, can still find a spark.
In the end, as likable as the music and band may be, the album isn’t one which is likely to stand out from the crowd. There’s some good work put in, to be sure, and the band fits together very well instrumentally, but it ends up feeling more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album. Something like a fully-produced demo tape, in other words. And there’s the ding of doing a self-titled debut album without packing in a self-titled song! But plenty of bands who rose to greatness had a first album which didn’t show their full power, and there are more than enough moments here where everything really gels on the playing side to suggest that Stone Mammoth have that potential. Come at it with a close ear, enjoy the parts that shine brightest, and let’s hold hope that the band’s next album doesn’t take as long to emerge.