I learned a major lesson this year writing for Angry Metal Guy Industries Unlimited, Inc.. No, I still keep the toilet seat lid up after I go. Rather, band names are everything. This calendar year alone, I’ve reviewed bands named after long Biblical phrases, Roman numerals, house breaking your dog, and even a band that was one letter away from sending homophobic metalheads running for their nearest vial of eye-bleach. And now? Mammoth Storm from Sweden is here. Is this just a description of a big-ass snow storm? Is it literally hailing down furry extinct ginormous pachyderms? After spending a week with their debut, Fornjot, all I can answer is “yes.”
I know that doesn’t help you much in terms of just what this sounds like, so here goes. There are people who listen to bands like High on Fire and honestly think, “Y’know, this band isn’t heavy enough.” Those people are smoking some really good stuff, but they do exist. Whereas High on Fire primarily tempers their riffs with speed, Mammoth Storm just wants to pummel the shit out of you. Just a couple of seconds into “Augurs Echo,” and you’re leveled with the heaviest guitar tone I’ve heard all year. Between guitarist Christer Ström and bassist/vocalist Daniel Arvidsson (Draconian), they keep the riffs basic but no less potent, dipping into the frigid waters that Saint Vitus explored decades ago. Drummer Emil Ahlman will sometimes go beyond the simplicity of keeping time to instill a fill or two, but he batters the drums like a barbarian on the warpath, and despite reaching a hair over 11 minutes, the song doesn’t feel like a drag, thanks in no small part to Ström’s multi-layered riffs and Arvidsson’s howling vocals that reminds me of both Matt Pike (again, High on Fire) and a touch of Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke). Impressive.
Fornjot (“moon” in Norwegian) has been described in my promo folder as a doom/drone hybrid, but thankfully it’s way more doom than drone. The only thing drone-y about this album is the sheer length, which becomes both a blessing and a curse. The one-two punch of the title track (featuring some of the nastiest riffs on the whole album, especially the opening part) and “Horns of Jura” make the best use of their run-times, squeezing all life out of the riffs until you are left drained and weary, and that’s a compliment. However, the rest of the album doesn’t fair as well, such as the needlessly upbeat instrumental “Sumerian Cry,” or the 13-minute closer, “Hekla.”
Produced by the band and Johan Ericson (Draconian, DoomVS), Fornjot is just massively heavy. It’s layers of thickness piled on by more layers of thickness. The drums thunder, the bass is viscous and borderline chewable, and the guitars are extremely bottom-heavy, but contain enough highs to pierce through the purple fog. There are very little in terms of dynamics, yes, but this doesn’t hamper the songwriting. What does hamper it is the self-editing, or lack thereof. But already, with Fornjot, the band’s got my attention big time.
So when someone is in the need for something heavier than Oakland’s Finest, point them to Mammoth Storm and their impressive debut. For once, a band name actually lives up to the music itself. Who knew?