Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, and their new album Y Proffwyd Dwyll (False Prophet) are all about juxtaposition. Specifically, the pitting absurdly heavy instrumentation and production against choral, otherworldly vocals. That contrast is stark, but utterly effective. Each component is there to support and enhance the strengths of the other.
Often, one of the knocks you’ll hear about sludge or doom, especially of the stoner variety is that it’s either too plain and predictable, or that it’s one dimensional. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard avoid that issue entirely via vocalist/bassist Jessica Ball’s melodic and harmonized singing. Her vocals add an enormous amount of depth, which gives the instrumental side of things life and vibrance.
From the other side of the equation, the songs are composed in a way that plays to Ball’s strengths as a singer. Using leadoff track “Valmasque” as an example, the guitar work plays with and interacts with Ball’s vocal hook. The guitars, even while downtuned and grimy, flutter the same way the vocals do towards the end of each line. It may seem like a small thing, but this kind of stoner-ish doom metal is almost never written with vocals in mind, and it sets this band apart in a huge way.
I’ve alluded to it up to this point, but it must be mentioned that from a tone and production standpoint, it’s hard to imagine better production and recording effort. The guitars are obscenely dense and filthy, and yet somehow manage to stay clean and isolated enough not overwhelm everything else. The drums are thunderous and spacious. From the instrumental standpoint, it’s essentially a better version of the sound Pallbearer achieved on Foundations of Burden, and that’s no knock on Pallbearer. Meanwhile, Jessica Ball’s singing glides atop the cacophony without sacrificing any heaviness. I can even pretend to understand how Chris Fielding (of Conan fame) and the band manage to pull something like this off, but the end result is fantastic.
With a brilliant formula in place and an excellent songwriting and production effort, it’s a no-brainer that Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard have put out one of the year’s finest doom metal albums in a year. Doom metal has had a great year in 2016, and this album is right at the top of the heap.