Mammoth WVH, ‘Mammoth II': Album Review
Give Wolfgang Van Halen credit for not following too closely in his dad's footsteps. The 32-year-old son of late guitar hero Eddie Van Halen forgoes the bottom-thick classic rock of Van Halen (whom Wolfgang played bass for during their final years) for a more radio-polished variety of hard rock that was favored in the first part of the 2000s.
On his second album as Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang Van Halen once again goes the one-man-band route, writing and performing all the songs. Mammoth II doesn't move far from the basic outline of 2021's self-titled debut, checking off boxes in the starting-gun riffs, easily digestible lyrics and impassioned vocals categories. There's not a lot of originality here, but there isn't much to dislike either. As far as torch-carrying goes, Van Halen does the family name proud.
Without first-album obligations and anxieties attached to it, Mammoth II has more room to be both looser and more focused than its predecessor. The boxed-in sound that's inherent in such bedroom projects is now more open, too, giving Van Halen and his songs opportunities to explore some new paths. Returning producer Michael Baskette doesn't do much other than push some buttons and get out of the way, but then again, this type of music rarely requires meticulous studio finesse.
That's not to say Van Halen hasn't thought about all this. There's a curator's attention to detail in Mammoth II, from the stuttering drums of the opener "Right?" through the layered harmonies in the closing track, "Better Than You." Lyrically, subjects are vague – "How much further can you drag me down and make me feel this way?" – but open to enough interpretation to give them the wide appeal required in music like this.
The best songs are the ones that steer away from the few expectations saddling Van Halen in his brief career so far: the whip-snap crack of "Another Celebration at the End of the World," the near-pop sheen coating "Miles Above Me" and "Take a Bow," a seven-minute riff builder that includes a guitar solo played on Eddie Van Halen's old gear. It's both a tribute and a step forward for the younger Van Halen, a template for the future that doesn't disregard his past.
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