Mammoth Grinder – Extinction Of Humanity -CD
Well, that was unexpected. After honing their aggressive blend of hardcore punk and stoner doom to create a crushing brand of sludge with a higher than usual quotient of hardcore, Mammoth Grinder have completely switched gears on us on Extinction of Humanity. Whether the band decided that there was no way they could improve upon their already perfected formula, or whether they stumbled across that Nihilist demo compilation, the world may never know. (Actually this is quite likely, as I can spot Chris Ulsh sporting an Entombed t-shirt in one of the band's promo photos). In either case, this is some of the most faithful old school Swedish death metal worship I've heard. The band nails the sound perfectly with energy that can be traced back to the band's hardcore roots. This isn't flashy or technical, just in your face, punky and most of all brutal death metal.
The guitar tone is spot on. There's a little more fullness to these riffs than the signature Sunlight Studios sound, but the operative word here is absolutely "chainsaws" when it comes to describing this guitar tone. The driving riffs behind the songs are the punky, thrashy powerchord riffs so familiar from that Stockholm sound. There are occasional slower, almost doomy sections but they never have a bluesy, sludgy feel to them; that sort of Sabbath influence has been completely divorced from the band's style. Extinction of Mankind is essentially free of lead guitar, unless you count the peals of feedback that pour out of the amps whenever the riffs let up. Sometimes this feedback essentially takes the place of where a guitar solo might normally be, such as in the closing part of "Resurfacing." There is one traditional guitar solo on the album that closes up "Frozen" and though it starts pretty humbly, Chris Ulsh shows his considerable soloing chops by the time it's over, which makes me wish he had opted for more solos throughout the album as he's more than capable of playing interesting ones.
Unlike many of those Swedish death metal bands, the bass guitar is clearly audible throughout all of Extinction of Humanity, likely a holdover from their sludge days of yore. Chris Camp's bass lacks the sort of overdriven punch it had before and it sounds like he's playing with his fingers rather than a pick these days, possibly due to the more complex death metal riffs throughout the album. He does have a few standout moments where he deviates from the guitar riff, such as the lead-in to the guitar solo in "Frozen."
Brian Boeckman's punk drumbeats fit the album like a glove. He's not quite as unhinged and ridiculous behind the kit as, say, Nicke Andersson, but he pulls off some great fills during riff transitions and generally beats the living hell out of his drum kit which is all this album really needs. There's no double bass at all on this album, with the faster parts being straightforward hardcore punk beats, but I always thought double bass never really fit in well with this style of death metal so it's not missed at all.
The vocals on this album are brilliant. Chris Ulsh pulls off the bellowing walrus-lion so reminscent of L.G. Petrov and Matti Kärki absolutely flawlessly. His higher pitched hardcore bark from previous releases is nowhere to be found here, and his growl is decidedly different from the death grunts he used here and there on ...Goes to College and Rage and Ruin. I'm not sure where he found the time to practice this style in the short year between the band's releases but whatever muse he found that lead him down this path is much appreciated. There isn't a huge amount of variety to the vocal performance, but since even the legendary Entombed mostly relied on backing vocals and samples to introduce some dynamics to the vocals, I think it's safe to let the one-dimensionality slide.
The songwriting is top-notch; the band keeps those chainsaws revved throughout much of the album's 21-minute duration but slows down at key moments for a breath of fresh air. The riffs are unrelenting and expertly crafted. As I mentioned before, I would have appreciated more guitar solos as the one that does show up is great. The songs are generally on the short side and the album as a whole is very short, which is its only real problem. There were at least two more tracks recorded during the sessions for Extinction of Humanity that were released on the Legion split that would have been welcome additions to the album's short running time. This is one of those rare cases where a band plays tribute to a particular sound and pulls it off with such convincing panache but is also one of those even more rare cases of a band completely changing musical gears without becoming completely lame in the process. Fans of Mammoth Grinder's earlier material might be taken aback by the change in direction so for them I recommend starting with the Legion split first. If you have even a passing interest in the old Stockholm death metal scene I recommend looking into this; if, like me, that scene is the source of some of your favorite albums then this is a must-have.