You certainly wouldn’t hear Wolfgang Van Halen complain of having a dull moment. Following his astonishing, nonetheless rightful, rise to fame as the bassist of Tremonti and of the colossus that is Van Halen, he has then decided to take matters into his own hands and give birth to the big machine that has become Mammoth WVH.
Mammoth WVH – Mammoth II (BMG)
Release Date: 4 August 2023
Words: Dany Jones
Conceived as a solo effort where the artist would perform and record entirely as a one-man band, the live set-up has then expanded into a stellar cast of celebrities. With the several global stadium tours that ensued with calibres of the likes of GNR and Metallica, appearances at the summer festivals, international headline spots and even a Grammy nomination, Mammoth WVH has quickly managed to draw a map of global scale.
Wolfgang Van Halen
Last December, MetalTalk caught up with Wolfgang Van Halen for Mammoth’s live performance at the iconic London O2 Arena, and the singer had hinted that the sequel was already deep in the works. The intention was to carry on writing and recording solo in the studio while taking it to the road with his entrusted Whitlock / Sidoris / Ficarro / Jourdan explosive ensemble.
Fast forward to the summer of ’23, and Mammoth II, the official Mammoth WVH second album, is due for worldwide release on 4 August 2023.
Where on Mammoth WVH, Van Halen may have still been fine-tuning, on this record, we hear a newfound assertiveness and a more focused sense of direction. It is as if the artist has finally found his true identity, fearless of breaking boundaries and of pushing the envelope both vocally and sonically.
A new heaviness transpires from the album. Right?, Like A Pastime and Another Celebration At The End Of The World unleash in succession as a powerful opener detonating a trilogy of explosions.
In Right?, meaty riffing and sudden breakdowns without notice alternate with the unequivocal Van Halen trademark solos. The rhythm section is also beautifully intricate, while the belting choruses are charged with angsty emotion, offering a first taste of the singer’s extensive range.
Like A Pastime is meteoric and filled with tension. The riff mimics a loaded machine gun in preparation for the eruption that will follow on the choruses. The pause on the outro ahead of the final reprise will only aid to that effect.
But a favourite has to be Another Celebration At The End Of The World.
It seems hard to imagine anyone capable of turning a cowbell into a heavy piece of apparatus. Absolutely stunning the percussive work on this track, where the artist displays his great skill as a drummer. One can only envision how this song will absolutely send heads spinning when performed live by heavy-weight comrade Garrett Whitlock.
Van Halen here also greatly showcases his vocal range, with the addition of grit and modulation not heard before. This is indeed one of the finest of this record, and it is not by chance that it was chosen as the first release.
Symbolic is also the video, where, as a parody in response to the first single of the earlier Mammoth WVH, the loner multi-instrumentalist is now sacking his alter egos to be replaced by the members of his live band.
The ‘radio friendly’ Miles Above Me flows like melted butter, where groove, catchy riffs and harmonised lines are aplenty, while Take A Bow brings all the feels. This track is magically ignited with tons of atmosphere and a game of pull created by the recurrent stop/starts. A slurry solo and escalating chord progression only add to the tension anticipating the release on the chorus.
The impressive vocal performance on this song reaffirms this artist as a truly gifted singer.
Mystical Eastern flavours envelop Optimist, while the hopeful Waiting is a sheer sonic delight from that very first haunting hook.
Second and most recent single release is I’m Alright, where Van Halen keeps it in the family by having his uncle Patrick on the Wha Wha solo and even an appearance by his very own mother as the lady at the box office.
The video picks up where Another Celebration left off, and the band that Wolf fired goes off to form another band called WWW, now sabotaging WVH and having one over them in an alleged battle of the bands.
The symbolism in the imagery here is strong. Could a vintage John Cusack starring in the Hollywood blockbuster Identity have anything to do with it? Shall be left open to interpretation.
The album closes on a fade with the thought-provoking Better Than You, probably written in response to all the naysayers that have shown criticism along the way. “See what they say, see what they all say.”
Evoking a Foo Fighter-esque vibe throughout, Mammoth II is fresh, vibrant and captivating. It is a stunning compendium of ten songs to be drunk on a breezy summer day, and that shall resonate for the many winters to come.
It is mind-boggling to think that this record was once again wholly written and recorded by the singer alone.
If ever there was any doubt about the staggering talent of WVH, Mammoth II is a true testament to the contrary and well and truly earns the artist his rightful place in the landscape of modern rock.
One can hardly wait to catch the live rendition and ponder that Wolfgang Van Halen is well and truly only just getting started.
Mammoth II can be ordered from here.