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Mammatus "The Coast Explodes"

?Woe to the earth / And to the sea / The dragon descends?. Well. Maybe it?s not such a bad thing after all that it is nine minutes and thirty seconds until Nicholas Emmert howls the first lines of Mammatus? new album ?The Coast Explodes?. Nine minutes and thirty seconds that comprise different movements full of tripping grooves with various guitar leads strewn on top, shredding breaks that only add to an unbelievable build-up of tension, a full-blown free-jam and at least three riffs that are as HEAVY as it gets. Nine minutes and thirty seconds that are more than enough to be sold on an album that is a worthy companion piece to labelmates La Otracina?s recent ?Tonal Ellipse of the One?. Together, the two releases go a long way to show how vital the Holy Mountain label has become.

Delivered in true Ozzy style, Emmert?s vocals add another retrospective colour to a sound that isn?t derivative but finds exciting ways to tip its hat to Hawkwind, Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Sleep, Black Sabbath, and early Soundgarden. The first song, ?Dragon of the Deep Part Three (Excellent Swordfight)?, directly takes up from Mammatus? self-titled debut on which the first two parts of the dragon tale could be found ? an album which earned a honourable mention in Stephen Clover?s look back at 2006.

In the mid-nineties I was a lot into the heavy post-grunge guitar sound of the Melvins or Kyuss. I was annoyed, however, as ?stoner rock? took over, feeling that bands like Unida, Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu and even early Goatsnake were undecided between image-free heaviness and a cartoonish version of heavy metal. The results were often verging on the ridiculous. There?s some of that in Mammatus as well: the pathetic band logo, the fantasy lyrics and the overall Tolkieness of ?The Coast Explodes?, the cover photo of what I assume to be the band members sticking sticks (or swords) into the setting sun. One of them even seems to be carrying the sun on the tip of his sword. But there?s also the heavy riffing that I liked (and still like) so much, significantly improved by more complex song structures (four tracks, 40 minutes) and all the freeform / psych- / prog-elements that indeed take stoner rock on a whole new level, making it easy to overlook or even cherish the bullshit that goes with it.

This is a great album, but also a guilty pleasure. My rating includes a bonus credit for making me actually raise my fist (during track 1) and headbang (during track 4) while writing the review. Thanks for that, but I still hope nobody saw me. 8/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (22 August, 2007)

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