Overall Score: 8/10 Song Writing: 7/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Warp Factor: 5/10 Pros: The band's most ambitious and fully realized work to date Cons: It's not an instant hit - it takes time to reveal its full magnificence.
Did you know that no one born in Wales has ever been into space? Hard to believe, isn’t it? They aren’t exactly short of space cadets though, are they? There is definitely something in the water and in the mushrooms in Wales. From the denim-clad transit van fabulists Budgie, through the mystical rave rock of Super Furry Animals to the squelchy surrealist pop of Cate Le Bon, Welsh artists have frequently seemed other-worldly. It’s as if they have access to another dimension, similar to the way magic seeps out of The Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Almost like space dust has filtered into the lungs and souls of many Welsh artists.
Of course it’s weed, not space dust or mushrooms that’s been synonymous with MWWB (previously Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard) but the ironic doom metal moniker has been ditched for their latest release The Harvest. It isn’t just the name that’s been streamlined. Previous release Yn Ol I Annwn saw the band fully realise their mix of crushing riffs and ethereal shoegaze but The Harvest sees those elements really coalesce, whilst bringing to the fore a stunning retro-futurist sci-fi sound. Clearly influenced by the works of John Carpenter and Vangelis, The Harvest is a glittering universe of hyper-drive zips, bleeps and oscillations: a soundtrack to a documentary about a busy space port in a galaxy far, far away.
Fear not riff lovers, MWWB can still crush like a stoned mammoth and on the title track, the band come in like Celtic Frost circa Into The Pandemonium after being beamed onto the Starship Enterprise against their will. Gloriously OTT, it does everything we expect of MWWB but bigger, bolder, and restates the fact no one else sounds quite like them.
Elsewhere, tracks like the heavy but haunting Logic Bomb and Moon Rise possess a wistful air, you can imagine they are describing futures unfulfilled, both vast and yet personal there is a scope to these songs previously only hinted at. More restrained on Moon Rise and more direct than ever on Logic Bomb, Paul Davies‘ guitars are beds for the more prominent vocals of Jessica Ball and the super-atmospheric synths. In a way the riffs are the least interesting thing about the album. Yes, they are needed and are a key part of the MWWB sound, but it’s the electronica aspects of the music that really grab your attention, that and the catchier and more confident vocals.
Take Betrayal – a sinister piece of driving krautrock which doesn’t even feature guitars and is one of our favourite tracks on the album – it’s a shame it’s under 3 minutes long. Similarly, Let’s Send These Bastards Whence They Came ditches most of the rock trappings, drumming aside, in a euphoric slice of spacetronica.
Carpenter and Vangelis aside it’s the little known French act, Heldon, that most frequently come to mind when listening to The Harvest. Led by guitarist Richard Pinhas, who also worked with Magma, Heldon became known as Gallic futurists. Heldon was a philosopher and devotee of science fiction, the work of his band now considered ground-breaking in the rock and electronica movements. Their records, the last of which was released in 1978, still sound ahead of their time now. Of course what was futurist in the 1970’s now sounds retro-futurist, but for many that idealism associated with the sci-fi of that era is still the template, maybe even the platonic form of space rock. Hawkwind have been doing it for what seems like millennia now and don’t appear to be in any hurry to change the formula. MWWB don’t stray too far from that formula either, but bring an artful and feminine touch to a genre long associated with greasy haired acid casualties. If the band are to continue, and considering that Davies is still recovering from a Covid-related stroke and subsequent coma, that’s not a given, we see MWWB playing a large part in the future of experimental rock music, taking on the baton from the likes of Heldon, Hawkwind and Celtic Frost. With The Harvest, MWWB are aiming for the stars.
The Harvest is available now via New Heavy Sounds.
For more information on MMWB, like their official page on Facebook.