Mammoth Storm – Alruna (2019)

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From the release notes:

The Swedish doom heavyweights MAMMOTH STORM finally strike back: After the trio has just recently signed a worldwide deal with Argonauta Records, they are set to release their brand new album titled Alruna on June 28th 2019!

Formed in 2012, MAMMOTH STORM left an impressive first stamp with their critically acclaimed debut EP, Rite Of Ascension, followed by numerous shows all over Europe alongside acts such as AHAB and many more. Fornjot, the band’s first full-length album released in 2015 with Napalm Records, gained MAMMOTH STORM the well-deserved, high praise by both fans and critics alike, while pursuing heavy as hell riffs in the name of doom.

Four years later, the band featuring Daniel Arvidsson (also in Draconian) on bass and vocals, drum & organ wizard Emil Ahlman and guitarist Christer Ström return to the scene with their sophomore storm of a mammoth album, Alruna.

Says the band: “It feels great to finally be able to present a release date for our second album. It´s a strong album that clearly holds it´s own identity and shows our natural progression as a band. We´re proud of what we´ve achieved and curious to see how the scene will respond to it.”

Named after the mythical plant Mandragora, Alruna is the enigmatic sequel to the highly appreciated debut album Fornjot. The album holds five new songs sprung from the same source as its predecessor but shows a broader range of expression and a somewhat different sound. The production has a rare deadly punch that animates the progression of MAMMOTH STORM into a new earth shaking experience. The deceptive silence has ceased, the storm is approaching!

My impressions:

“Giants” opens with two interwoven guitars and the music soon gets heavy and ominous. The music falls away and at one stage is on one side only. I always appreciate such use of balance. The lyrics are appropriately guttural, without being unintelligible. The guitar work is driving and distorted and the percussion is understated, but effective. Some of the guitar work borders on the psychedelic and this is done well. This track is over 6 minutes long and much of it is instrumental. The band uses this time to showcase a variety of guitar elements.

“Alruna” starts simply, with one distorted guitar laying the platform for the track. This is soon joined by the other instruments and they establish a dark and driving backdrop for the vocals to commence about 2 minutes in. These are deep, slow and haunting. The track is over 7 minutes long.

“Shores of the Dead” opens with a dense layer of guitars and the bass line is particularly prominent. It’s a slower track that is rich in instrumental segments that has an epic feel about it. The vocal sections have a heavy, troubled air and the guitar work conveys a feeling of madness appropriate to theme of the title of the track. This one is over 7 minutes in duration also.

“Raven Void” is 9 minutes long. A distorted guitar flies in on the left side only, joined soon thereafter by the rest of the instruments in an oddly syncopated arrangement. It’s a slower, driving track that is quite melancholy. It shifts gears between guitar effects, styles and arrangement, but the laconic tempo remains through the track.

“Atra Mors” starts with a distorted guitar and a heavy bass riff, accompanied by vocal snippets. It is slower in tempo again, as it begins it’s 9 minute journey. The template that has been established in other tracks is used again – distorted opening, followed by slow, driving riffs in a considered and purposeful tempo, with extended instrumental sections peppered by vocal sections. I really appreciated the bass line in this one – it’s dark and brooding. The track slowly winds fades away as an appropriate end to the album.

With some tracks being really long, the band elects to share some effective musical elements, with the guitar work being brought to the forefront. It’s done well, but themtracks feel too long. Whilst there is variation between the tracks, there isn’t sufficient engaging variation within the tracks to warrant such length. But, what do I know?! It’s not awful, but it had me zoning out a little.

There’s a good bit to like in these tracks. The vocals are moody and emotional and the guitar work is well executed. The percussion is quite understated and this gives the music an uncomplicated and honest quality. Like all effective art, it conveyed a message of struggle and melancholy well.

The release notes spoke of a ‘rare deadly punch’ to the production. I understand what they mean – the stripped back, heavy and darkly emotional nature of the music fits that description. But, the long nature of the tracks left me a bit punch drunk at times.

5/10

Review by Greg Noble

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