Mammoth WVH is the debut album and artist name of Wolfgang Van Halen, after years of tasty teasers the record finally dropped on June 11th 2021. One of the most impressive facts about this album is that Wolfie played all instruments and sang on every track, showcasing the talent that flows through his veins. We’ve had a few excellent singles come out such as last year’s “Distance” and now we get to hear the whole thing.
One of the most anticipated albums of the last few decades, we’ve listened – here’s the review.
The album kicks right off with “Mr. Ed”, this tune wastes no time in getting started. Right from the get go, there’s plenty of energy. Where it builds up, it does so with great effect – coupled with catchy riffs there’s nothing here that doesn’t impress. As the song goes on, you’ll notice little elements scattered across the mix that really adds sonic flavours to great effect. The guitar solo was tasteful and ended beautifully before returning to form. Wolf’s vocal performance on this track is nothing but exceptional, fitting the vibe of the song while presenting a wealth of energy to make this a truly memorable opener.
Track two is “Horribly Right”. As soon as this thing started running, heads were a-bangin’. Along the verses we feel it’s almost like a modern blend of rock and pop elements that provides a good example of how broad Wolf’s songwriting talents are. What stands out for us on this tune is, the vocal performance for sure with harmonies that are nothing short of angelic amongst the gnarly-ness of the rest of the mix. Speaking of Gnarly-ness, while it does get a bit heavy in places – it isn’t overbearing which we feel makes it accessible to all and why shouldn’t it? That takes skill.
Up next is “Epiphany” which opens with some fuzzy bass coupled with a killer beat before some melodic guitar hits us. There is not a moment wasted as the track runs with such a smoothness we’re pretty certain we’ve not heard in quite some time. The choruses are HUGE with so much energy you could possibly power an entire street for some time. As we listen, we picked up on a part just shy of the three minute mark, as it calms down you’ve got the (by now) classic Wolf harmonies. It then picks up before sitting on a chord for a little bit and it’s that moment that our jaws dropped, it was tight and beautiful – then it’s back to the chorus before fading out on some feedback.
After that, it’s “Don’t Back Down”. Now we’re onto one of the singles! This tune kicks off rolling with plenty to clap about (but keep it on the offbeat – that’s two and four to you non-musos). This song has a lot of attitude, which anyone can pick up from the verses alone – which are ever so tight with a great groove. As it goes along there’s great moments where it gets swinging, we love a bit of swing here at Call That Music?. When it comes to the titular “Don’t Back Down” it hits as more of a bridge with some epic riffage and lickage between the sections where this occurs before rolling off to a beat and a riff before going back to the verse. The outro is nothing but marvellous.
An acoustic opener on “Resolve” with a Bond-esque(ish) chord progression. This is a little more poppy than the rest, with an excellent showcase of Wolf’s range on vocals and his phrasing in guitar solos – holding those bends to great effect over the progression at first before coming in with great energy in the second. What is also notable about this track is how it builds ever so subtly before about four-or-so minutes and you look at yourself and go “How did we get here?” For us, this was certainly the fastest five minutes we’ve experienced. “Resolve” is a dreamy tune with a lot to love.
“You’ll Be The One” opens with a lot groove. Attitude in the lyrics with a motown buildup in the Pre-Choruses. A lot of it is more or the less in keeping with much of the other previous tracks, which is great. The guitar solo in it features a lot of wah and is short and sweet. Overall though, at this point in the album we feel this is the closest thing to filler amongst the rest of the killer.
We’re half-way along in the album now and we come across “Mammoth” – building up before hitting incredibly hard with a rising progression. What is notable about this track, amongst other things, is the lyrical context of this song is upbeat, uplifting and just lovely – it has been quite a long time since Rock has achieved this without coming across as Cheesy or Preachy. Additionally, this is a showcase of Wolf’s drumming abilities with plenty of energy in the fills – everything else is built on top of this performance which gives the track a tonne of character and we’re all the better for it.
Track eight is “Circles”, detecting a crumb of synth here amongst the other elements in the opening! Much more of an “80s” track but at the same time its really not. Like much of this album, you can really hear how Wolf’s taking Rock and Pop forward with this. “Circles” feels neutral, in that at times it feels dark yet in other places it has a reassuring quality.
We’re seeing (or hearing) “The Big Picture” next. Kicking off with some low-tuned raw guitar and wastes no time getting started. We gotta say, it’s one sexy riff. With every second that passes, the energy is undeniable – raw and full of character. The main vocals hit hard ever so nicely, drums hitting, bass locked right in the pocket. What’s not to dig? Listen carefully, you’ll notice little (almost hidden) vocal hooks hidden in the mix that are present just enough to make this pretty memorable.
Another one of the singles now and this time it is “Think It Over”. This track is one of the more poppy ones however we feel this has a bit more in the hook department, especially in the choruses. We would go so far as to say that this was our favourite of the singles Wolf released, except “Distance”. Right from the get go, it has an almost “Noughties” characteristic and as per some of the previous tracks has the sweet sauce of “the build up”. It takes a different direction in the bridge prior to the guitar solo, which is melodic, measured but human with plenty of feel. A mini climb-down before hitting us with the chorus before heading to the outro to end the tune brilliantly.
Its a double helping of singles as track 11 is “You’re To Blame”. It’s hard hitting as it is charming. Keeping it relatively cool in the verses with Cornell-esque pre-choruses, yet despite that – Wolf does his own thing to really bring it as his own. At this point it must be said that Wolf might very well be crowned “King of The Choruses”, maybe – but the reason for this is because he sure as hell knows how to write a damned good one as you’ll hear in this track (if you haven’t already). Following the guitar solo, it climbs down before returning to form and then right to the finish line – with great style.
Track twelve is “Feel”. Beginning with a little more Punk vibe. The way that all the elements are working together in the verses provides an excellent platform for Wolf to soar off with the vocals. When it comes to the choruses, no one is the same – sure it may musically be providing a good progression but just listen carefully and hear what Wolf is doing on vocals. Highly impressive. A little bit of what we, mere mortals, would assume is a breakdown towards the latter part of the track is pulled off to exceptional standard. A strong performance overall.
The penultimate track “Stone” does not go how we thought it would have started, and what a nice surprise it was! It flows smoothly for about a minute before totally kicking off then returning back then building up. This track is certainly more guitar-orientated as the track moves along and we’re all here for it. What you’ll note listening, is places where reverb gets switched up on the drums in certain places – very clever indeed! The outro, is certainly extremely interesting with some piano assisting. You’d think this would be the end but oh no!
The final track is “Distance” this was the first single that was released shortly after Eddie Van Halen sadly passed. In various interviews and other reviews elsewhere, its common knowledge as to what the subject matter of the song is about. This fact alone gives a whole new level to the experience of listening to this song. If there’s anything about this song, it’s the feeling and energy within it. Given the fact that Wolf played everything on this record, in every performance here, you can feel what he was going through which makes for an awesome experience.
Overall, “Mammoth WVH” is an exceptional album with a lot to offer. A marvellous showcase of what Wolfgang Van Halen has to bring. The fact of the matter is that he has brought elements of Pop, Rock and a few other things into writing this album which made an impeccably unique sound that is all his own. We cannot say the last time in our living memory whether any other (predominantly) Rock artist has achieved something like this. It is quite possible that this album may very well be one of the most important in this century thus far, only time will tell to see, hear and feel the true impact following its release but for now, we’re going to listen to it again – a few more times.
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