I remember happening upon Progman Rob’s review of Mammoth’s 2016 LP “Deviations”, and subsequently adding the release to my very large list of “need to check this out at some point” bands and albums. Unfortunately, although always noted with the best of intentions, sometimes this list goes largely forgotten, and I end up having moments of “how did I not hear this sooner?”, albeit usually years later. Mammoth’s 2012-2016 retrospective collection is definitely one of those for me. This is a group that takes fusion-y instrumental prog to another level altogether, and if this type of sound should interest you, “PROGenies” is an essential primer on the style, and a must listen.
A seeming greatest hits collection of sorts, “PROGenies” ends up serving as a great introduction to the band, as it admittedly did for me. The 14 tracks presented here are curated from the band’s 6 releases over the aforementioned time-frame, and every track ends up dishing out a twisty and diverse blend of atmospheric virtuostic rock, metal and fusion. Having not heard the band before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the record reeled in my musician brain right from the onset and proved an interesting, sometimes challenging, but always varied listen.
From a musical standpoint, the band really locks in and fires on all cylinders. The time signature changes and rapid fire soloing are monumental to say the least, but what really impresses is the band’s ability to dial the intensity back, at numerous points focusing on an atmospheric melody or jazzy interlude. It really comes across to the listener that the band values a sense of dynamics over the sheer “wow” factor. Although they probably could have rested on the laurels of their chops alone, this sense of craftsmanship is much appreciated and noteworthy. For many of the noodle crazy bands in the new school of technique driven progressive music, this balance between knowing when to let loose and when to hold back is an illusive line. The ability to play a million notes perfectly doesn’t mean a thing if what is being played isn’t memorable, and Mammoth creates many a great “moment” over the course of their musical excursions.
“Innate” struck me as a great mix of styles and sections. Prog acrobatics that conjure Spastic Ink’s syncopated craziness abound, before a jazz/funk breakdown chills the proceedings out for a bit before a math rock guitar workout comes in. The compositions are fun and playful, keeping the listener in awe but also paying attention. Elsewhere, “Paradigm” blew me away with some incredible bass work, and more tasty harmonized riffing and huge melodies. The track “Entanglements” really stuck out and spoke to my own musical tastes with some truly wacky full band runs and stop start changes that had me picking up my jaw off the floor. As a progressive musician and guitarist, I can appreciate the intricacy of the music presented, especially in the composition of the guitar parts, and the way the instrumentalists lock in and play off of each other is quite a feat to say the least. It is quite an accomplishment to be able to play together as well as this collective does, and their seems to be some magic in the Mammoth camp in that regard.
Overall I was pretty enamored with “PROGenies”, and it only shows a band getting better as time goes on. As an introduction to an extremely talented band, or a review of what they have accomplished so far, I think the record is an effective distillation of their ethos and sound. This is one not to be missed for fans of musically accomplished instrumental prog, or for fans of tight musicianship and strong melody in general. I am dumbfounded that it took me this long to hear them. “PROGenies” is an achievement in retrospection the band should be proud of.
- A Break in Continuty
- Metta Warm Fleece
- Psychedelic Love Handles
- Future Reflection
- Hallucinogenic Hummingbird
- Repetition in Regression
- The Acclimation of Sedation
- It’s Too Early for DMT
- Not Yet