If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to see Andrew O’Neill’s ‘History of Heavy Metal’ show (unrelated plug, but the DVD is available now and well worth buying), there is a segment where he illustrates subgenres by firing the white ray of heavy metal light through a prism, and it splits into a whole host of directions, one part of which is doom, a style of music he describes as “Black Sabbath on Ketamine.” Well, if you fire that bit of the metallic spectrum through another prism, you’ll find doom itself splits into a host of categories, from the stoner, to the funereal, the epic of Candlemass, to the stripped back punk rooted doom of Saint Vitus. Well, Mammoth Storm clearly can’t be bothered with any of these pigeon holes, and go straight for the unashamed and unalloyed crushingly heavy Doom with a well deserved capital ‘D’, and their latest album ‘Alruna’ is no exception.
‘Giants’ opens the proceedings in a suitably titanic fashion, pummelling the listener with down tuned riffs, a bass line to shake the liver, and a thudding mortar barrage of drums, all fronted by the pissed off bellowing of Daniel Arvidsson. It truly is a track which on the surface has all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the skull, but is in fact delivered with a skill and precision that is a testament to the skills of the band as musicians. Give it multiple listens and you you will start to hear layers and nuances in the way the instruments work with each other, an indication as to the experience they have garnered over the seven years of their existence.
Title track ‘Alruna’ follows, and if my limited knowledge of mysticism serves me right, these sonic magicians are referring to the name for the magical Mandrake in their native Swedish, a plant long associated with ancient rites and hallucinogenic trips. Indeed, ‘Alruna’ imbues some of the grim psychedelic visions associated with the plant into the music, the guitar work weaving a darkly hypnotic spell through the normal sonic pounding. This is not music for a hippy-trippy journeys into the astral plane; this is the soundtrack for a journey into far darker realms of consciousness, so don’t expect to be transported to realms of light by the song, rather be ready to battle demons and liches in a musical underworld. ‘Shores of the Dead’ builds on this dark, foreboding sound, and indeed in theme and texture it could almost be ‘Alruna: part II’.
Things get even more epic with ‘Raven Void’, the opening guitar line falling from the speakers like an approaching avalanche, sweeping all before it with sheer unrelenting power, an aural assault that Mammoth Storm keep going unabated for a whole ten minutes. Live I could only imagine this song rattling lungs in rib cages and beer bottles off bar shelves, and damn me if I don’t want to be in the crowd to experience it. If that wasn’t enough to beat the listener into submission, the album finishes the job with ‘Atra Mors’, or ‘Black Death’ if you’d rather (that Latin O-level I sat in 1985 still has some uses), an equally huge track that screams of dark times and does its utmost to crush any remaining happiness the listener may have under a slowly advancing tide of the dead.
Mammoth Storm truly deserve the name they have given themselves with the massive weight of ‘Alruna’, an album which must surely be a strong contender for Doom album of the year, and I say that in 2019 with the new Saint Vitus album in arms reach of me as I type. Uncompromisingly heavy, the band have truly found their sound with this, their second full length release.