Mammoth Storm - Fornjot - (7.5/10)
Published on January 14, 2016
The story of Mammoth Storm somewhat resembles that of the recent British stoner/doom project With The Dead, which was formed out of the ashes of the longstanding institution of said style Cathedral, though in the former’s case the driving force out of the equally longstanding yet more Gothic tinged act Draconian, of which he was not a founding member, has opted to recruit some unknown musicians and has brought for this band as something of a side-project rather than a new flagship effort. Nevertheless, the sonic similarities are pretty difficult to miss, as their debut LP Fornjot lives up to the Swedish doom metal ideal of crafting a cohesive machine where atmosphere plays more of a key role than hooks, though stylistically it’s a good deal closer to the sludgy character of Tombstones, a Norwegian project that itself is heavily influenced by the same aesthetic in Electric Wizard and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Sleep.
As far as pacing goes, this album is generally on the punishingly slow side, avoiding any sudden upticks in tempo and largely sticking to a rigidly minimalist riff set. It’s quite heavy and dense in demeanor, mirroring the down-tuned demeanor of guitar and bass work that accomplishes the muddier aesthetic that often comes with newer adherents to this style, while also incorporating a heavy degree of atmospheric lead guitar drones and keyboard lines that are somewhat reminiscent of what a funeral doom band might employ. The chief area where things manage to become distinctive is Arvidsson’s vocal work, which while occasionally morose and bordering on a death metal growl, largely has more of a moderate gruff character that’s more in line with early 90s classic sludge via Kirk Windstein and even occasionally has a Phil Anselmo tinge to it that is comparable to Down’s earliest work.
For the most part this album is stylistically competent and accomplishes the goal of creating a surreal atmosphere where a druid with antlers on his heads might actually be real. The whole thing generally flows like one extended jam-fest at the same gravely slow trudging tempo, perhaps along the lines of a band of pilgrims in mud covered boots, slowly marching towards some holy site in the middle of a massive marshland. There are a few subtle breaks in the formula, such as the shorter “Sumerian Cry”, which sees the feel switching to a more mid-paced march feel, kicking off with a military snare beat and a set of enticing guitar harmonies overlaying a dense, distorted bass drone that is itself a bit of a contrast from the slower riff work on the rest of the album, but still keeping to the highly repetitive and slow-developing character of the rest of the listen. Otherwise, the songs generally run together as one cohesive unit barring a few interludes here and there, largely clocking in at over nine minutes and feeling about twice as long.
There isn’t really much to complain about here in terms of where it is seeking to go, the only thing that’s really standing against it is that it doesn’t really take a whole lot of risks and works better as an occasional listen. In some respects, this album could almost be likened to a stoner/doom version of an ambient black metal album, droning on and laying out a vivid landscape, yet not quite laying the atmosphere on thick enough to keep things as interesting due to a heavy reliance on similar sounding lead guitar fragments and not taking a whole lot of occasions to exploit the keyboards. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to seeing someone who is a fan of Midnight Odyssey or Spectral Lore taking to this band along with the more likely target audience. This is the sort of album that is solid and gets its point across, but doesn’t quite have the staying power that it could with a few more placeholders to break up the extended contemplative epics.