Label: Black Bow Records
When isn’t a split a split? When it’s Totems. Though it would be somewhat accurate to consider the new record featuring Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (MWWB) and Slomatics a split, it’s also been described by both bands as a collaboration, with the bands sharing ideas during the recording of Totems. It helps make the record stand out from most other splits released, and the creative process has obviously paid dividends, as the songs here build upon the success of previous records – Y Proffwyd Dwyll and Future Echo Returns, respectively – to produce something captivating, and as strong as either band has ever been.
With psychedelic, stoner, and doom bands, there is often a regression towards all things prog and 70’s, and in many ways Totems embraces that whole-heartedly. The artwork in particular could have been plucked from some long-lost prog record or obscure sci-fi paperback, and the use of Mellotron-esque effects during MWWB’s two songs only enhances this feel. The airy, cosmic haze that permeated Y Proffwyd Dwyll is as strong as ever, especially during the closing psychedelic guitar solo on ‘The Master and His Emissary’, and the shimmering vocals of Jessica Ball continue to give Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard that extra edge over most other bands playing similar music. Interestingly, given the nature of Totems and their length (‘Eagduru’ is 11 minutes long, and is the shorter of the two MWWB tracks) the two songs feel more focused than previous MWWB efforts.
By contrast, Slomatics go straight in with the heaviness. Their three tracks are also heavy with cosmic haze, as if their doom metal were the soundtrack for a benevolent alien race landing on Earth; but they’re also heavy with, y’know, heaviness. ‘Ancient Architects’ moves at a glacial pace, filled with wonder and dread, whilst the piano-led interlude of ‘Silver Ships Into The Future’ adds an effective sense of musical contrast, whilst keeping the dramatic, star-gazing mood intact. Closer ‘Masters Descent’ is another slice of slow and heavy stargazing doom, and sees the record out in wonderful style.
Throughout it all, that spirit of retro prog and sci-fi is prevalent in Totems, not just in the way that both bands are subtly expanding upon their established sounds, but in the narrative flow of the record – and, of course, the artwork. Something quite special has been captured here, and it feels like a high water-mark for two bands who were already making music of excellent quality.
Totems can be pre-ordered on vinyl at Black Bow Records; the exact release date is yet to be confirmed, but is set for around mid-March.