Review Summary: Bloom through the cracks of the concrete sea.
Few bands honor their name like Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. Their sound is heavy, entrancing and strangely comforting, like the aftermath that follows a deep, lung-shattering blast from the bong. It’s pure Sabbathian worship orchestrated by a symphony of concrete and stone and conducted by the celestial voice of Jessica Ball. Her singing is like a little flower blooming and breaching through the cement surface. No logical reason can explain its presence there, but neither can anyone deny the miraculous beauty of its existence.
With Yn Ol I Annwn
, the five-piece from Wales have completed a trilogy initiated in 2015 with Noeth Ac Anoeth
(from the Welsh, “Naked and Wise”). The band’s full-length debut was granted an earthly nature, like some sort of terraforming catastrophe, each track felt like a devastating quake. It was raw, dusty and monolithic. A year later, a second meteorite fell on the sludge and doom scene proving that the band wasn’t pulling a one-off; it was titled Y Proffwyd Dwyll
(“The Prophet’s Fraud”) and it showed remarkable consistency in their sound and blind faith in their formula.
Three years later and not much has changed for the Wizard Bastard. After a brief foreplay with Irish sludge masters Slomatics that led to a split release last year, the band goes full circle with Y Ol I Annwm
(which roughly translates into something like “Return to the Underworld”). The script remains barely untouched: gravitational riffage
and stomping tempos are governed by the celestial chants of Jessica Ball who, after dropping bass duties on live performances, is focused now on torturing Moogs and singing. She sounds more confident than ever, casting spellbinding melodies on tracks like “Fata Morgana” and the fantastic closer “Five Days in the Abyss”. Her ghostly and fragile tone is what makes MWWB’s craft so unique, different from the imposing character of vocalists like King Woman’s Kris Esfandiari or Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell. Somehow, the band manages to coalesce her ethereal synth pop vocal lines with the onslaught of bands like Bongripper, Eyehategod, or Crowbar. As mysterious as that defying blossom through the asphalt cracks, it just works.
This wedlock of styles comes at a price though. The thirteen minutes of the instrumental “Katyusha” are arguably unnecessary, and they show that, in the absence of Jess’ voice, the resulting brand of weed fueled metal is not much different from the works of other prominent figures of the sludgedom. Furthermore, the constant presence of twisted frequencies, beeps and squeaks can become tiresome after a while, which is an issue that carries out from their previous album. Although these noises belong in the background, they are noticeable enough to slightly detract from the otherwise great sonic experience of songs like “The Spaceships of Ezekiel” and title track “Yn Ol I Annwn”.
Beyond these minor qualms, songs like “Five Days in the Abyss” and “Fata Morgana” are among the best spells created by the Wizard, and it’s no surprise that Chris Fielding, from the abrasive cave-doom trio Conan, is the man behind the mixing board. This record can only be measured by the inhuman amount of herb that might have been burnt and absorbed to make it sound like your head is being squeezed between two gigantic pillows. Y Ol I Annwm
is a coach trip to the unknown with Matt Pike fueling the engines and Nicole Dollanganger piloting the ship straight into a black hole. So, close the windows, breathe the smoke and brace for impact. And don’t worry, the Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard will take care of the rest.