Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard might sound like an algorithm-defined result for ‘doom metal band name’, but their sound is anything but unoriginal; fusing the squelching, synth-laden noise assault favoured by Come My Fanatics…-era Electric Wizard and Ufomammut with the witchy, ethereal stylings of vocalist Jessica Ball, the Wrexham band has polished a sound that expertly balances its tonal palette. 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll caused heads to turn with its progressive compositional style (check out the title track for excellent use of strings), bonded to colossal fuzzblasts like shit on velcro.
The scale of the group’s vision is also clear in their album artworks, and from the half-hour Nachthexen from 2015. Describing themselves as an “ideal soundtrack to your next intergalactic voyage or black hole exploration”, the space-fantasy-gone-awry theme looms large in their use of modulation effects and choking production, but the band clearly hold wide-ranging interests besides the folly of space travel – they described their most recent album as themed by acts of human worship.
Their latest release is a split from Black Bow with Belfast noiseniks Slomatics, and once again the group have delivered with crushingly heavy yet sublime cuts. Hot off the vinyl presses, we caught up with guitarist Paul Michael Davies to learn the meaning of Eagduru and other niceties.
I know you’ve mentioned the individual words of your band name hold some significance; would you like to elaborate a little more?
We decided on the name for a number of reasons. Some people think we are satirising the doom scene. Well, our music is genuine. It looks like the fans realise this, so the name is inconsequential. It just shows that some people (mainly press and reviewers) get too hung up on our name, and this may indicate the vacuous nature of the ‘scene’. Who cares about a bands names when they are high as fuck listening to their vinyl? Ha.
How was the making of your new split with Slomatics – a meeting of minds?
I really enjoyed it, thanks. Dave from Slomatics messaged us about how much he liked our last album and we started talking. We share a lot of the same interests so we just kinda agreed to do something together.
‘Eagduru’ is the name of a series of polymer artworks by Ian McKeever. Could we learn a little more about the inspiration behind this track?
Ah, cool. I didn’t know that. Wes [Leon, guitars] wrote that song. I wrote ‘The Master’ and ‘His Emissary’. I think it’s to do with neolithic tombs or structures. He hasn’t really told me, but I will tell him about the artwork. Thanks!
Celtic folk imagery plays a role in your album artworks and track-titles. How much influence do you take from your Welsh background?
We take a lot, there is loads on our doorstep. Plus we know a load of Welsh guys that have encyclopedic knowledge on all things druid. It’s not that ubiquitous as say Viking stuff. All our albums are in Welsh too.
Could you explain a little about the band’s writing process?
I write most of the stuff, then me and the drummer [James Carrington] go and smash the songs in the rehearsal room for hours at a time for a few weeks. If I don’t think a song is good enough, I kill it, much to the annoyance of the other guys. At some point, Jess will come in and we will tweak the vocals. Wes is now writing a few songs but I don’t really know his methods.
The doom scene is alive and kicking at the moment. Was it easy to attract attention from labels like New Heavy Sounds and Black Bow?
I would say the doom scene is very much alive and kicking, if a little oversaturated. I spent a few months chatting to NHS before we signed. We didn’t know for sure if they were gonna sign us, but they mentioned us in a radio interview that one of our friends heard so at that point we knew we’d be signed, ha. It was mad because days after we signed the NHS contracts we had loads of label offers, but NHS are great. They have become good mates of ours, what more can you ask?
As for Black Bow, we knew they’d released Slomatics stuff before and we had heard through various sources that Black Bow wanted to work with us so it was a no-brainer to release through them. They are such a well-respected label that keep to their underground roots so it’s been a breeze working with them.
Who would you point to as your most important influences, musical or otherwise?
Weirdly enough I’d say it was stuff like directors, artists and authors that influence us, then I’d put music last. I don’t listen to doom really and I hope this comes across in the music. Obviously, because we tune down and use fuzz people are gonna say we are influenced by Sleep or Electric Wizard but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of either. We are big fans of soundtrack guys like Clint Mansell and John Carpenter and, yes, I like riffs. We always try to get a soundtrack vibe to our music, I don’t know whether we succeed though. As a band, if we had to list our favourite directors I gotta say Noe, Haneke, Carpenter, Kubrick, Malick – kinda big intense movies with killer soundtracks.
Doom metal is approaching its 50th anniversary now. Do you think there’s still room for innovation in the scene, or is perfecting the existing style more important?
I love it when bands innovate stuff. That’s what drew me to Slomatics. You can only hear a pentatonic blues riff so many times. It’s cool when bands have an element of doom but cross it with stuff like crust and black metal. So yeah, let’s mutate this genre! I got a lot of time for bands that don’t follow rules and bring other stuff to doom, hopefully we do that.
Are you planning to develop your sound further from your current style on future releases?
For album three I’m continuing to move away from what you would call doom – loads more synths and harder sounding riffs. I am also writing a long song to keep the original stoner MWWB fans happy, ha. Wes seems to keep the doom vibe going so that’s cool. We are still gonna downtune and try to be heavy as fuck but have songs with more parts. And maybe a ten-minute improvised freak out in there.
Lastly, which is better – high fantasy, or sci-fantasy?
Erm.. tough call. I’d say put both in a blender and enjoy over ice…
Totems is out now on Black Bow Records. Purchase here.
Words: David Burke