Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Van’ and ‘Halen’ two words that when combined are 100% synonymous with premium five star-grade rock; a trademark for quality musicianship and energetic, virtuoso performances.
In fact for the last decade or so of Van Halen – prior to the sad passing of Eddie – three quarters of the lineup were Van Halen in name; such is the hard rock genes that course through the family veins.
In late 2006 Eddie’s son Wolfgang, aged just 15, joined forces with his father and uncle Alex. A family partnership, with the irrepressible force of Dave Lee Roth on vocals, that bore the fruit of the final Van Halen studio release; 2012s ‘A Different Kind of Truth’, a well-received slab of rock that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
Fast forward nine years – via a couple of Mark Tremonti’s (Creed / Alter Bridge) solo albums and last year’s solo release from Clint Lowery (Sevendust) – and we have delivery of the much-awaited debut from Wolfgang himself. Now ‘The Wolf’ is stepping into the spotlight himself with his perspective upon the family trademark.
The very name of his band ‘Mammoth WVH’ is a personal reflection as Wolf explains “The name Mammoth is really special to me. Not only was it the name of Van Halen before it became Van Halen, but my father was also the lead singer. Ever since my dad told me this, I always thought that when I grew up, I’d call my own band Mammoth, because I loved the name so much.
Through the achievements of his career thus far Wolfgang is familiar to a host of rock fans worldwide but here on this 14 track long-player he is cast as an individual for the first time. From beginning to end this is ‘The Wolf’ playing each note and singing every word; a tour de force throughout. Entirely self-penned this debut sets out to establish Wolf’s own musical identity.
This personal expedition begins in the form of the album’s opening salvo ‘Mr Ed’ a nod to Wolf’s father. In an interview, back in February, with Rolling Stone magazine Wolf explains “That was just the demo title, because I open it with a harmonic tap and I tap in the solo and it reminded me of dad, so I jokingly called it that.” It’s a solid opening move and the clear influences shine through especially in that aforementioned solo.
‘Horribly Right’ follows up with meaty riffs aplenty and a catchy hook that requests the listener to “Say a prayer tonight”. The germination of a rocking earworm.
The polished, shining, cleanly defined lines of ‘Epiphany’ are a revelation and the melodic harmonies soar seemingly effortlessly.
The revved-up top gear glam-rocker ‘Don’t Back Down’ shifts down the musical freeway in breakneck fashion with a pounding beat. Speaking in that aforementioned Rolling Stone interview Wolf explains his direction with this stomper “The demo title for that one was ‘Sabbath.’ The whole vibe of the song was just ‘sports arena.
Just hands in the air fucking yelling for your team, going nuts.” Can’t disagree with him as there is most certainly an undercurrent quite reminiscent of a certain pioneering UK metal outfit.
A gentle acoustic intro cascades into the main body of ‘Resolve’; a track in which Wolf demonstrates a gentler perspective with wide-ranging vocals that assist in building proceedings up lovingly into a heartfelt six-string solo.
The power is cranked up with the chunky power riffs that abound in muscular rocker ‘You’ll Be The One’; think Nickelback merged with AC/DC and you’ll be in the correct arena. Definitely one for the stadiums.
Mid-stage of the album, and we encounter title track ‘Mammoth’ in which Wolf sings his heart out declaring “Anything is possible, prove them wrong”; quite clearly it is for this Santa Monica-born as he reels out a variance upon the theme with this appropriately entitled gargantuan tune.
The Dave Gilmour infused ‘Circles’ beautifully slows proceedings with a mellow, summery approach prior to the edgy, granular intro riffs of ‘The Big Picture’ kick in. This is Wolf working the ‘boulders’ of the riffs through a musical jaw crusher into the ‘grains’ of the finely-worked the solo.
The mainstream AOR feel of ‘Think It Over’, with it’s hoof-tapping beat, is an unashamed four minute dip back into the late 80s, early 90s genre. Wolf reflected, in the Rolling Stone interview, “It’s just a straight-up pop-rock song, but dad just loved the energy of the song. It made him happy.” I, for one, won’t be seeking to argue with that endorsement.
‘You’re To Blame’ steps up sweetly through the musical gears with the stabbing rhythm and mouth-watering, succulent squeeling six-strings working up neatly to what is my favourite solo on the album. A thoroughly appetising four minutes of rocking delectableness. Manna from rock paradise.
Wolf revealed that upon ‘Feel’ he played his father’s original self-modified Frankenstein and cuts loose in a full-blooded manner; a cracking number that will surely translate seamlessly to the live environment. The memories Wolf shares, in Rolling Stone, to how his dad treated the Frankenstein during recording are well worth seeking the actual article out.
The floaty proggish undercurrents of the salacious, moody ‘Stone’ lap upon the shores of a distant, mist-shrouded land before bonus track ‘Distance’, the first Mammoth WVH release, pays a heartfelt tribute to his father in a heart rendering fashion that won’t leave a dry eye in the house. An alluring, aesthetic tearjerker for sure.
There’s no better way to close these words of review on this terrific release than these words from Wolf “I’m so thankful that my father was able to listen to, and enjoy the music I made. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done and nothing made me happier than seeing how proud he was that I was continuing the family legacy.
The track listing for Mammoth WVH is:
- Mr. Ed
2. Horribly Right
4. Don’t Back Down
6. You’ll Be The One
9. The Big Picture
10. Think It Over
11. You’re To Blame
14. Distance (Bonus Track)
Mammoth WVH Debut Album Out June 11, 2021 Pre-Order Now https://found.ee/MammothWVH