Mammoth Salmon - Last Vestige of Humanity (2015)

In a year where much of the focus has been pushing the boundaries of music - black meta, in particular has gone above and beyond where it was a mere 365 days ago - we often forget that innovation isn't the be all, end all in any musical genre, let alone metal. In fact, bands who are changing the perception of their genre are few and far between, and will always be outnumbered, if not always outgunned. We can't lose sight of the bands who are simply good at what they do, groundbreaking or not. Portland sludge/doom trio Mammoth Salmon fall squarely into that category; a band who, while they haven't reinvented the wheel or revolutionized digital music transfer, have a firm grasp on down tempo grooves. On Last Vestige of Humanity, they're doing it; and doing it well.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in their home state, Mammoth Salmon have surely reaped the benefits. One pass through the album, and the slow, head nodding fare you're treated to is likely synonymous with what outsiders would consider "stoner music." But herbal enhancements or not, you won't be able to resist the call of songs like Acid Casualty. And it won't be the fuzzy guitars that get you, necessarily; as good as the roof shaking effects are, it's the songwriting that trumps all. That may come as a surprise, especially on a record that isn't heavily produced or layered. But guitarist Paul Dudziak has a way of grabbing you by your untrimmed beard, and coercing you into a persistent head nod. His rhythmic riffs boast that crunchy sound doom-heads crave, but it's his ability to shift between those stomping chords and a melodically charged solo that keeps the music feeling fresh almost 45 minutes later.

And while he provides much of the album's substance, the rhythm section of Alex Bateman and Steve Lyons, on bass and drums, respectively, supply the underlying tones. Whether is a lingering pluck of a bass string, or the metallic sizzle of a cymbal, each and every element plays into the bigger whole. Look no further than Memoriam to find a threesome that are truly in sync with one another. No, that doesn't mean that seeing them live will allow you to bear witness to a series of choreographed kicks and synchronized maneuvers. But what it does guarantee is the smooth presentation of a style of music that is, at times, unrefined and rough around the edges. Of course, that's a simplified view of the genre as a whole. And if you've come to the table expecting a one trick pony, you'll walk away feeling foolish. Even Shattered Existence has off-book passages, bass-led and with an air of psychedelia.

All of the change and progression that's happened in modern metal is great for the genre, and great for the fans. But we have to remember how fickle we are as listeners; we crave change, then lament it when it doesn't go the way we'd hoped. It's why Metallica making S&M was a treasure and a curse for metal. It opened doors for bands to try new and exciting things with heavy music, but not all of them resulted in songs worth hearing, let alone shelling out money for. That said, it's entirely okay to continue doing what you do best. Mammoth Salmon are doing the stoner/doom sect proud each and every time they plug in, and there is little reason to think that'd change. They don't have to fly in a cellist. There will be no auditions for a DJ. And, if their fans have their way, there will be no pitch corrected nonsense. Last Vestige Of Humanity is all the proof you need to know that doom is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. And wherever there is electricity, Mammoth Salmon can plug in, turn on, turn the volume all the way up, and deliver. No orchestra needed.


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