Mammoth II

Mammoth II

“The one thing I wanted to do is avoid a sophomore slump,” Wolfgang Van Halen tells Apple Music. “That was literally all that was on my mind. Other than that, I think I came into the process with a bit more confidence in comparison to the first album. We’ve got two years of playing live shows now, so we know how the crowd reacts to stuff.” That confidence has clearly extended to his vocal performances on his second album under the name Mammoth WVH, prime examples of which can be heard on the singles “Like a Pastime,” “Another Celebration at the End of the World,” and “Take a Bow.” “On the first album, I was trying to figure out if I could be a singer,” he says. “But for the past two years, I have been a singer. I think you can hear that confidence in my guitar playing as well.” In fact, II is much more solo-forward than its predecessor. Standouts include Wolfgang’s melodic turn on “Miles Above Me,” the finger-tapping on “Erase Me,” and the 90-second twister on “Take a Bow,” which he played on his late father’s famous “Frankenstein” guitar through the rig used on the early Van Halen albums. “Everyone thinks the first album was me working through everything that had been happening, like losing my father,” Van Halen says. “But that’s not true. I finished recording that album in 2018. This is the album where I’m working though everything that happened in my life since 2019, and that’s a lot. I think that’s why it ended up being a darker, heavier album.” Below, he discusses each track. “Right?” “I think this is a really great example of my mission statement as a songwriter in that it's incredibly heavy, at least from the perspective of Mammoth in comparison to the first album. There's practically a djent part after the solo, which is very different from anything we've done, but that doesn't get in the way of the melody. And I think that blend of heaviness and melody can coexist and not override each other. The title came from when I was joking around with the engineer, and I ended up saying ‘right?’ so loudly that the drum mics picked it up. We decided to keep it because it was right on beat.” “Like a Pastime” “I thought this was an important one to [release as a single] because I think it shows a sense of maturity and a different sound in comparison to the first album. The whole birth of the song came from me trying to explain to my girlfriend, now fiancée, what a polyrhythm was, because I really like Meshuggah. There’s that looping rhythm that's locked with the tempo at the start with the guitar and the bass, and then the drums come in doing this sort of triplet-esque thing on top of it. That was my way of attempting to teach her, and she got it, but before I knew it, I had written a song.” “Another Celebration at the End of the World” “This was the very first song that we released. With the first album, there was always a question of what should be the first song everybody should hear. With this album, unanimously, everybody was like, ‘Oh, it's this song. This is the perfect song to come back with.’ This one really kind of set the pace for the record, because I feel like there weren’t too many super uptempo, upbeat songs on the first album. They were more kind of groovy. With this one, I just wanted to write a punky, fast song, and that started the path of this album being heavier and more aggressive.” “Miles Above Me” “This is sort of the pop-punk comfort song of the album. I haven't really talked about the solos yet, but I really enjoy this one because it's more of a song within a song, and it kind of just takes you on a little melodic journey. I think that's really an important part about solos—it's not always about shredding balls and showing off. My dad said the solo for ‘Think It Over’ on the first album was my George Harrison solo, which was such a huge compliment, because that’s just playing the perfect melody for what the music is providing. I kind of took this solo in that same vein.” “Take a Bow” “I think this is the longest song we've ever released, but I think the most important part is the solo. It's way different from anything I've done before, and it really represents an elevation in my skills. I was never too confident with guitar solos, but on this one I just went for it. The thing I was stoked about is that I played my father's original Frankenstein guitar through his original Marshall cab and head, so it’s basically what he used for the early Van Halen albums. He’s not around anymore, so I think it was really cool to be able to involve him in a way when he’s not here.” “Optimist” “I'm a big TOOL fan, and I think that sort of came out without me realizing it on this song. It’s our first song in a really weird time signature—it’s in 7/4—and it's just very dark and angry and heavy. My favorite part is the bridge. I love how the drum fills lead into this droning sort of march, just this wall of sound. I wrote it going, ‘Oh, man—I can’t wait to play this live.’” “I'm Alright” “This song is really funny because it almost has a throwback vibe in a way, at least through the lens of Mammoth, but the lyrics are very from the heart. It’s definitely a little bit angry. If I ever personally had an anthem for telling people to fuck off, this is it—because I literally say that in the song. It’s about rejecting everyone's expectations of me and about how I’m doing what I want to do. And I think there's something really funny about layering that message in a song that echoes the vibe of a more classic rock song.” “Erase Me” “This was an idea that fell off from the first album because it just wasn't ready. But I revisited it, and man, I really loved the solo more than anything. It’s kind of an aggressive pop-rock song, and certainly a breakup song if ever there was one. This was another one that made me realize this album was going to be more solo-heavy than the first. For this song, the entire solo is tapped, but it’s melodic. I think that’s a funny duality because when you think of tapping, you think of shredding. But in this context, it’s almost pretty and kind of fun.” “Waiting” “Lyrically, this is almost a thematic sequel to ‘Distance,’ which was the very first song we ever released. That song was dedicated to my father, and it’s sort of that conversation between you and that person or thing that you miss. But it almost shifts perspective through the song. It's a method of storytelling I haven't really attempted yet until this song, and it was kind of exploring more of the vibes of ‘Distance,’ and I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's a very emotional song for sure.” “Better Than You” “I think this is the perfect album closer. In the studio we were calling it ‘Meshuggah Beatles’ because there's sort of that mix at the ending, and also in the bridge there's this descending riff, but at the same time it gets really, really heavy. It’s similar to ‘Right?’ in that it has that representation of heaviness and melody living together in harmony in a really fun way. Lyrically, I’m talking about how everyone on the internet thinks they’re better than everyone else, but really they’re just as miserable as everybody else, and we’re all just kind of talking to ourselves.”

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