This soon-to-be released merch shirt for Acid Mammoth really says it all: ‘Sabbath Worshipping Cimmerian Doom‘. That’s about as succinct of a concept for a band as I’ve seen in a while, making reference to both the band’s origins (Greece – don’t worry, I had to look it up too) and their objective. I really want that shirt.
Consisting of something you don’t see too often, a father-son duo of Chris Babalis Sr. (guitars) and Chris Babalis Jr. (vocals, more guitars), Acid Mammoth had one of my favorite metal albums of last year with Under Acid Hoof. It ripped, it grooved, and it definitely toked as it brought plenty of stoner accoutrements that made 2020 a more manageable year. Rounded off by Dimosthenis Varikos on bass and Marios Louvaris on drums, they seek to smoke you out with their latest offering, Caravan.
The story’s largely the same here for those familiar with their past work, though there’s a couple very welcomed changes. The thing I immediately noticed was how the vocals are now situated in the mix. On Under Acid Hoof, they sat around the middle on average, naturally pitched higher into more of a yell with the guitars taking more of center stage, the rhythm section keeping things alive and well from the rear. On Caravan, Babalis Jr.’s vocals are generally clearer and more upfront, delivered in a lower tone which adds to the occult, menacing mood.
“Berserker”, the first track of the album, plays no games – it’s a fuzzy romp from start to finish with enunciated vocals, rumbling bass, thundering drums, and the guitars… oh man, the guitars. Every riff seems to have been homegrown for my enjoyment, slow and low like your favorite indo strain. A catchy chorus is the cherry on top, something to the effect of: ‘Hypnotize me with your hellish mind/Devil’s child, berserker/Mesmerize me in a trance-like state/Devil’s child, berserker‘. The Black Sabbath worship is apparent, but it doesn’t wholly define them.
What rhymes with wholly? Woolly, just like the mammoths that have stomped on the covers of the band’s albums as of late. The clearest sonic personification of the mammoth in their music is easily the drums, especially in “Psychedelic Wasteland”, a true doom set piece with a plodding start, each drum strike in the first two minutes mimicking their acid-drenched hooves slamming upon the planet’s crust. Riffs are even slower, more stoned, and denser than before. The vocals trend a bit higher in the register here to match where your mindset should be by about this time, provided you partook in some recreational and/or medicinal herbs before hitting play on Caravan. This track is a monster, and it’s not even the largest one on the album.
Nope, that designation goes to the title track, an 11-minute melter of a song that sees Acid Mammoth go as low as possible – subterranean, even. If you danced to this track, you’d end up looking like a shambling zombie considering its very deliberate, titanic pace. Guitars are flavored with some deep, wailing, Khemmis-esque spice in the leads before the vocals come in to sing of witches and the astral plane, tried and true beats for music such as this. You really feel the size of this song, not just because of its length, but the measures taken to organically elongate particular sections without becoming too bloated or repeating motifs.
I consider stoner doom metal very good music to chill to, but some stuff, regardless of genre really, just demands more of your attention. Acid Mammoth fit the bill. Between sing-along vocals and immensely gripping instrumentation that makes you lower your eyebrows in focus, Caravan steals your mind song by song until you’ve looped it about five times before you realize you’ve done so. The quartet may not reinvent the genre, but just like a worthy smoke session, it just has to feel good, and feel good it does.
Caravan is a lot like a trip to your favorite dealer – short and sweet, consisting of them handing you a big helping of some fuzzy shit to help clear your mind. Since it’s good product, you can’t help but come back for more. Acid Mammoth are grand proprietors of shag carpet texture, excellent vocals, and a larger-than-life feeling that shows a mastery of stoner doom music. They may worship Sabbath, but some prefer to worship beast, and what’s better than the mighty mammoth? This gets two tusks up from me, so hoist yourself up on this monster and enjoy the trip.