Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: Beardfish - Mammoth (2011, InsideOut)

As promised, here is the review of the new Beardfish album, Mammoth. Thanks to Freeman Promotions for the advanced digital copy.

I’ll start by saying that if you’re a fan of Beardfish, stop reading now and just go get this album.

Unless you want to read something about how they are advancing in their musical path, how they have progressed and changed somewhat in their writing, but still sounding like a bearded fish. 

While the music is quite accessible, I needed several listens until the album reached me on a more emotional and personal level. This is a personal issue obviously and will vary from individual to another. However, once I “got” into it, I could enjoy the music so much more. But my point is that even prior to that emotional contact, I could very well acknowledge that this is a well done album, with clear and solid musical themes and fine execution.
This is the sixth album by this busy and talented band (they released their first album, Från En Plats Du Ej Kan Se, in 2003), and they seem to be getting better and more ambitious with each one. The band’s sounds get denser, richer and fuller. There are walls of guitars and keyboards filling my ears in opener song "The Platform", but this doesn’t diminish the melodic line that drives this track. Actually, all the songs here have a stronger backbone in the form of the keyboards; these create a vast thick basis for the rest of the music to rely on, something that wasn’t always there in prior albums. I must also point out the clarity of recording and how lovely it is to hear the efficient bass work. Moreover, Rikard’s vocals seem to be better controlled here, as at times, in previous albums, he seemed to reach a little out of his range occasionally. In any case, his vocals are quite recognizable by now and they are very special and are a superb fit for this style of music. In "Green Waves" he takes his voice into places he’s seldom used before; practically screaming in a very hard-rock manner (but not in an unpleasant way), he serves us his raw and savage side, introducing an additional layer of meaning into the lyrics.

If Epic is what you’re looking for, you’ve got plenty of it here. Fantastic lengthy tracks with stellar instrumental sections and compelling solos of guitar and keyboards. One can hear the influence of King Crimson (Red-era) in parts of the second song, "And The Stone Said”.
Beardfish manage to serve up epic-ness not only in long songs but also in more compact mode such as in Tightrope with its charming melody wrapped as a lovely 60s psychedelic rock package but with so much more hidden inside it.
The aforementioned "Green Waves" is one of their most angry and savage sounding songs. Here we meet a side of Beardfish we didn’t see much of previously and it’s a welcome one. They unleash power here, raw intensity that is not devoid of beauty.

The tunes on Mammoth, like in their previous albums, take their influence from various rock music landscapes: hard, psychedelic, 60s etc; but to my ears they seem to know how to create music that has their own sound, while one can still hear the influences. Their identity is not lost, even though it is in debt to the past.
I also have to mention the stellar instrumental piece, "Akakabotu", with its heavy keyboards sound a-la Uriah Heep and cool jazzy feel, provided by the saxophone. Their interaction in the middle of the song provides for one of the most exciting songs on the album, and a classic-sounding prog-rock tune.  
The closing song, Without Saying Anything, shows to me again that Beardfish has a knack for writing catchy exciting songs with a melody that gets stuck in your head. But this song is more than a simple ear candy. Its intricate structure, rich layering and expansive volume are part of what makes this one of their most charming songs.

The way I hear it, Mammoth is Beardfish at its creative peak. This is an album by a band that knows what they want and know how they want to sound and know how to achieve it. Mammoth is another successful in a string of wonderful releases by this Swedish band.

Mammoth is released by InsideOut and can be found as a regular CD edition, an LP+CD edition and a CD+DVD edition. The DVD includes live performances and a Making-Of documentary.



  1. Any thoughts on the album Art?

  2. Hmm... the art, you ask?

    Well, I personally like it.

    I like this current incarnation of the logo that started with the previous album, and the contrast with the album title (unlike the previous album).
    I also like how the background is somehow lighter/faded at the top to emphasize the mammoth and how in overall, there is a use of colours to enhance its presence on this beautiful piece.
    Also, the light nature of the colours coincides with the nature of the music, which is mostly, as is the case with most Beardfish, upbeat, positive-sounding, hopeful and optimistic, despite the implications about extinct creatures and humans following in their footsteps.
    Hmmm... maybe I should add this to the review...

  3. I just listened to this album, went on the ProgArchives to get some background (it is my introduction to the act) and saw your name there for a review. So I came here to read it all.
    Loved Mammoth, have to listen to the rest of their discography. Great review

  4. Thanks :-)
    I like this album more and more with each listen, it really has some catchy tunes.
    Their previous albums have more "goofiness" in them; for instance, in Sleeping In Traffic Part 2 with the song, South of the Border and other songs in Destined Solitaire. This current one seems to be a more coherent and unified sound altogether (not to dismiss the goofiness, I love those songs of theirs as well).
    The over 30 minute piece, Sleeping in Traffic (on Part 2) is a wonderful multi-section composition (also with goofing around, but not too much). And my other favourite from that album is The Hunter with its great tune but odd lyrics. Part 1 has great songs like the opening one and Roulette.
    I don't like The Sane Day (though I think I'm in a minority) and I haven't heard the first album (sung in Swedish).
    Have fun discovering them!

  5. I'll have to check it all out. I didn't know the first was all in Swedish, I thought is was a mix - as the song titles are mixed between English and Swedish - so I probably won't get that far back either


Any comments?