Review Summary: Ed Mundell is setting the controls for the heart of the sun.
Ed Mundell has been an icon in the stoner rock community for years. He not only laid the foundation for The Atomic Bitchwax's bluesy sound by performing on their first two albums, but most importantly, had helped Dave Wyndorf shape his psychedelic visions and successfully transpose them to tape for 18 years. Even though a dozen members have joined and left Monster Magnet over the years, Mundell's presence has always been taken for granted. However, his sudden wish to leave the band in 2010 to pursue other projects was a true curveball for the fans who felt the group were incomplete without him.
Nevertheless, a couple of years later, Ed returned with The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, a new band that sound exactly like the name suggests: it's a powerful, spaced-out, jam-based instrumental collective. Mixing the deep grooves with extended, Hendrix-esque solos, The UEMG
really showcases how absolutely astounding his guitar playing may be. Whether it's straightforward rockers like 'Rockets Aren't Cheap Enough', 'Exploration Team' and 'Hello To Oblivion', the space dub of 'Unassigned Agent X-27' or the slow, scorching finale, 'In The Atmosphere Factory', Mundell is constantly dropping tasty riffs with retro leanings and also shreds like crazy. This complete freedom really brings out the best in him. At the same time, drummer Rick Ferrante (Sasquatch) and bassist Collyn McCoy (Trash Titan, Otep) provide the precise rhythmic skeleton for his bombastic guitar work.
'The Man With A Thousand Names' stands out amid hard rocking cuts as it's propelled by oriental soundscapes built around a sitar, acoustic guitars and a riveting bass solo. Although this track gives the listener a welcome break from the manic numbers, the best moment this record has to offer is its gorgeous centerpiece, 'The Third Eye'. This wonderful, twelve-minute epic encompasses what the band are all about. Here, they have blended everything from dirty grooves, catchy drum/bass rhythms and feedback-drenched solos, crafting a leviathan of a track which will win over anyone who has ever questioned the act's songwriting prowess.
Overall, it's peculiar how close this album ends up to Monster Magnet and even The Atomic Bitchwax's output. Most importantly, it reveals how matching were Mundell and Wyndorf's musical tastes and how well they had worked together for almost two decades. Both have that knack for simple yet infectious riffs and over the years have managed to polish their chops to get the right sound. Unfortunately, MM is the latter's dream vehicle and even though I for one wish he returned to his former collaborator, I am happy to see Ed steering his own wheels. The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic
is an eclectic effort that expands on the musician's back catalogue with sheer vitality.