Thursday, July 15, 2010

Metal Healthcare: Mammatus, s/t [2006]

For most people music is a hobby, or a source of entertainment—unless you're a metalhead, in which case it's more likely to be a religion. Metal assaults and envelops the listener with volume and a visceral, bodily heaviness which can, I think, be likened to a state of religious, spiritual rapture. I'm not much of a metalhead, but then again I'm not very religious. At the same time, I do find that I need communion with the metal gods on a semi-regular basis, if only to placate their dark powers. My personal history with metal is actually connected with religion: to get out of going to church as a teenager, I deliberately got a job Sunday mornings, and when told I still had to go to Mass on my own, I would just get in the Ford Taurus wagon and drive around listening to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin cassettes (it turns out that Houses Of The Holy is about the length of a Catholic Mass). For a 16 year-old Led Zep fanatic, this was actually pretty close to heaven.

I don't usually buy albums based solely on their album art, but one look at Mammatus' self-titled 2006 effort and I had to heed the piper's call. Featuring artwork by the brilliant Arik Moonhawk Roper, the album lives up to the band's MySpace self-description as “The final war between amps and sea creatures” (note to metalheads: Mammatus seem to have anticipated Metalocalypse's "Dethwater" episode). With churning sludge-riffs, epic fantasy titles, and distant echoed chant-singing, they sound like four Dungeons and Dragons fans who decided to trade their 12-sided dice for down-tuned guitars and combine Yes' 1974 opus "The Gates Of Delirium" with the stoner-rock monolith Holy Mountain by the legendary Sleep. (Religious side-note: Holy Mountain, their record label, is named after the indescribable 1973 Jodorowsky film.)

Mammatus (who take their moniker from a rare and freakish cloud formation) are from the Santa Cruz area and have recorded two albums (the second, The Coast Explodes (2007), is not as heavy as the first, but still good). They are said to be working on a third album, and I hope they come down from their wizards' tower.

Mammatus, "The Righteous Path Through The Forest Of Old":

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