Beardfish – Mammoth

Another year, another Beardfish album. Wait a minute, you’re telling me they skipped a year because the mix “didn’t sound right”? THOSE BASTARDS! HOW DARE THEY MAKE ME WAIT. Yeah, whatever. Anyway Mammoth is finally out, and Beardfish broke the “album a year” combo they’d held since The Sane Day came out in 2006. Part of this, as I said before, has to do with Rikard and the band not being happy with the mix as of late last year, but I would imagine the wonderful tour with Pain of Salvation delayed it a bit as well. Not that I can complain, it gave me the opportunity to see them in Budapest!

Like every Beardfish album, one needs time to let it grow on you. I came into it expecting this, as I remembered the deal with Destined Solitaire and my experience listening to the band in the first place. I feel like every time a new album comes out it almost invalidates their old material. They progress with each new release, everything else seems so old, so out-dated. Mammoth is an even greater progression from Destined Solitaire than that one was from Sleeping in Traffic, so I hope I won’t end up hating all of Beardfish’s material after this! I doubt it though.

Rikard and Beardfish have progressed in two distinct ways on Mammoth: musically and thematically. I’ll deal with the first one right now and the latter during my track rundown. Whereas every album in the past have been rather immature in a delightfully flippant and humorous way (with the possible exception of their debut, which is partly in Swedish and thus incomprehensible to me…), Mammoth is incredibly mature – comparable in many ways to the title track of Destined Solitare. Rikard expresses some of the same themes here that he has before – existential loneliness, rejection of the universal truth, atheism, etc. Philosophy in my Beardfish!? It’s more likely than you think! Yeah, I guess I’ll go into more detail on this later too – ok, rundown time.

The Platform – I heard this track in Budapest, and again since. I was very impressed with it then, and I’m more impressed now that I get to hear the finished version. The dueling guitar riffs are excellent and give the track a sort of metal feel, even more so than the title track of DS. I don’t get an Opeth vibe this time though, but rather Mastodon. Funny, I love this track but I find Mastodon incredibly boring. As soon as Rikard begins to sing the guitar riff becomes infectious, but not in a poppish way. I just love it – I feel like he’s dancing through the “frozen white wasteland” he describes (awfully specific, given the country he’s from…) Tracks like this really show off the instrumental talents of the band. When Rikard and David aren’t dueling with their guitars, Robert and David are dueling their strings in general. Magnus is, as always, furious in his drum assault on these heavier tracks. They prove that they can do anything, so why SHOULDN’T they make a metal track?

And The Stone Said: If I Could Speak – Rikard promised, Rikard delivered. A true prog monster if I ever saw one. At times it really has a retro feel, bits of old symphonic prog here and there, but overall it’s pure modernity. In true prog epic fashion it takes a good five minutes for the lyrics to start, and during that buildup we see many repeating musical themes flowing out of the instruments. They’ll be expanded upon later. When you listen to the track again you’ll be tempted to sing bits of it along with the riffs as they are encountered. It almost seems strange to hear so many keyboards on this track – the album is surprisingly lacking of them compared to Beardfish’s general oeuvre. I absolutely love the theme of this track. In it, Rikard gives voice to a stone (I bet you couldn’t figure that out from the title) that resides in the foundations of an unaffiliated “house of worship”. There’s a bit of revealing wordplay around the middle where Rikard declares “In this house of worship – I’m a stone!” Depending on how you interpret this, Rikard is either stating how unmoved he feels when encountering religious sentiment (amen!) or simply pointing out the setting and identity of his character. I’m going to take it as both, though I will admit I don’t know the writer’s ultimate intentions. Overall the track is about stones witnessing human strife unmoved “Did you think that the Earth could cry!?” The song contains the deepest lyrics I’ve seen spring from Rikard’s pen (keyboard?) and I absolutely love them. I must hear more! I can’t wait to see if this style is developed on the next album. I don’t want to spoil any more for those who haven’t heard it yet, so I will leave it at this.

Tightrope – Certainly my least favorite track on the album. I feel like this belongs more on a Gungfly album (one of Rikard’s solo projects, if you don’t know) than a Beardfish album. I suppose it’s here to display Beardfish’s eclecticism, so I guess it works well for that. The track’s poppish nature certainly juxtaposes against the prog epic that is “And The Stone Said”. I should say that this track isn’t exactly unpleasant; I’m just biased against any influence from pop. I still enjoy it marginally, and I’m sure less biased people than myself will enjoy it more.

Green Waves – This track is much more Mastodon than The Platform. I wonder if that’s where the “Mammoth” came from in the first place – it certainly isn’t mentioned anywhere on the album…  I have surprisingly little to say about this track. I certainly like it quite a lot, but it’s also one of my least favorite tracks on the album. I think it’s Nick’s favorite though, but you all know he has terrible taste (just kidding, all of the bands he’s promoted on this site).

Outside/Inside – A nice little piano interlude. I’m reminded of Chick Corea’s “Where Have I’s” from “Where Have I Known You Before, but I doubt that’s intentional. Minimalist piano interludes are always welcome in my book, as I AM a fan of Mr. Corea after all.

Akakabotu – Ah, nice, a wonderful Beardfish instrumental. Every album needs one. The only thing missing from this is the accordion – but Rikard doesn’t let us down. In this the band added some nice brass instead. I think it’s a sax, but it’s rather fuzzy so I’m not sure. Either way it gives the track a nice jazzy feel, as you might imagine.

Without Saying Anything (Feat. Ventriloquist) – This is probably the most traditionally “Beadfish” track on the whole album. It could probably have fit in Sleeping in Traffic 2 if it were a little slower, but it would certainly fit into Destined Solitaire. Fans of Van Der Graaf Generator might recognize the theme as similar to the song “Masks” from “World Record”. Kind of odd because Rikard professes not to be a fan of Peter Hammill. Anyway, it’s all about how Mr. Sjoblom doesn’t understand “conversation for its own sake” – a sentiment any self-described misanthrope like myself might sympathize with. He insists “I want the fire in my soul, the rythym of life should shake my bones!” – You can’t achieve that in meaningless smalltalk about Charlie Sheen, can you?

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Beardfish has never made such an eclectic album before. The Platform and Green Waves are pseudo-metal, The Stone Said is a prog epic, Tightrope is pseudo pop-rock, Outside/Inside is a piano interlude, Akakabotu is somewhat fusiony, and Without Saying Anything is a “traditional” Beardfish track.

True musical and thematic progress, just as I expected from Beardfish. It has left me wanting more, so I INSIST they release something new next year!

Tracklist:

01. The Platform (8:06)
02. And The Stone Said: If I Could Speak (15:07)
03. Tightrope (4:33)
04. Green Waves (8:53)
05. Outside / Inside (1:43)
06. Akakabotu (5:41)
07. Without Saying Anything (feat. Ventriloquist) (8:10)

Line-up:

* Rikard Sjöblom – vocals, keyboards
* David Zackrisson – guitars
* Robert Hansen – bass
* Magnus Östgren – drums

Links:

http://beardfish.argh.se

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