There was a time when we wondered if The Harvest would be released at all. Guitarist Dave suffered a severe, almost life ending stroke at the beginning of last year after contracting Covid-19. Thankfully, despite a very close call, he’s on the mend. After a year’s delay, The Harvest is here at last, three long years since Yn Ol I Annwn – a fine album, but one which suggested they had more in the tank and that it wasn’t yet the point where Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard could call for last orders. Despite the shortening of their name to an acronym, there’s nothing less about The Harvest. At all. Quite the opposite: it’s a massive, epic record and the best of their career thus far. What a way to come back.
If 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth laid the foundations of the MWWB sound, 2017’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll was an early realisation of their potential; the start of the band hitting its stride and finding a creative pulse. They sounded like the bastard offspring of a four way one-night stand between Kyuss, My Bloody Valentine, Hawkwind (when Lemmy was in it) and Lush. After the intriguing 2018 Totems split with Slomatics, on which the development of the MWWB palate continued apace, the third part of the band’s trilogy 2019’s Yn Ol I Annwn took a few listens to fully put you under its spell, and was undoubtedly a transitional album.
The Harvest sounds like you’d expect, only better. The riff structure is familiar, but more refined. They haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater, but added more gleam. This time the band, and vocalist Jessica Ball in particular, sound like heaven. Everything is tighter, a little more fluid, and altogether perkier than before. The underlying dynamism is still there, but it’s brighter and more sparkly now. This extends across the gamut of MWWB’s appealing traits. Jessica Ball’s growing confidence in her voice is apparent from the off: whilst her delivery is still ethereal and floats above the rampant musical melee underneath, she’s all over the mix now, often in multi-part harmonies – alternating between moments of fragility and more forceful delivery. The guitars still churn and grind, but there’s more focus in the six-strings. Drummer Dom McReady, formerly of MWWB’s label mates Black Moth, is particularly on fire: the insistent forward motion he creates for the band, rolling and undulating around his kit, is the lifeblood of The Harvest and truly hypnotic.
Since Jess Ball left her bass behind and focused on keyboards, they’ve played an ever-larger part in the band’s sound. On The Harvest those keys find more room within the quintet’s dramatic musical offerings: from swishing whizzes to pulses and retro-wave electronica par excellence, particularly in the space rock interludes (the Floyd-meets-Kraftwerk shuffle “Let’s Send The Bastards Whence They Came” is a real highlight on side two).
The title track is just pure majesty and the finest song MWWB have put their name to thus far, harking back to “Nacthexen” from their debut put propelling itself into exhilarating uncharted territory. Elsewhere “Logic Bomb” and the storming “Altamera” are truly big numbers, on which everything these Welsh wonders have been working towards manifests itself in two fantastic blasts. The album ends beautifully when Jess strips things back to just a distorted guitar and her voice on “Moonrise”. Shorn of the layers of fuzz, it’s a stark and breath taking closer.
Massive respect to engineer Chris Fielding for immaculately capturing every nuance and detail. The Harvest is as widescreen as they come, deliriously rich and all-consuming sonically. Any flab is gone, and what we’re left with is a piledriving set of riffs and soothing interludes which at no point outstay their welcome. When the album ends, all you want to do is play it again. After seven years MWWB have released the album I always knew they had in them: a perfect one. A crushingly brilliant record.
The Harvest is out via New Heavy Sounds on 25th March and can be ordered here.
Words: Andrew Field