Mammoth WVH, ‘Mammoth WVH’: album review
Wolfgang Van Halen lives up to his last name while forging a distinct identity and sound on his debut album, Mammoth WVH.
It’s a pretty narrow needle to thread, at an undeniably difficult time for young Van Halen, whose father of guitarist-hero Eddie passed away in October 2020. In addition to his personal grief, the bubble of respect and protection surrounding the legacy of the elder Van Halen was at a climax. Some online critics have even accused Wolfgang of capitalizing on his father’s death with the first single “Distance”.
But we listen Mammoth WVH makes it clear that he’s not trying to get on Van Halen’s nostalgic train. Aside from a sneaky, lightning-quick quote from Fair warning‘s “So this is love?” at the end of “Don’t Back Down” there is no obvious trace of his family band here: no flashy guitar solos, no David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar vocal boast and no playing of flashing sex words.
There is an obvious family bond in the high level of musicality on Mammoth WVH, on which Wolfgang manages every vocal and instrumental part. But he takes inspiration from a different and more recent set of influences, with more serious and emotionally open lyrics. ‘The Big Picture’ channels the first Alice in Chains, the unabashedly catchy ‘Think It Over’ reveals the influence of pop-punk group Jimmy Eat World and the love of Stone Age queens shines through on ‘Don’ t Back Down “.
The songwriting is crisp and admirably varied throughout Mammoth WVH, with the bubbling bass, chirping acoustic guitars and fiery vocals of “Resolve” and the epic metal fence track “Stone” adding to the display of the album’s creative range. There are plenty of clever and complex instrumental pieces to reward repeat listening, but they never take away the disciplined emphasis on structure, hooks and melodies.
It’s going to be fascinating to hear how Wolfgang’s music evolves on future albums. Mammoth WVH was completed nearly three years before its release, and it’s coming before it even served as a conductor to a paying audience. But it’s hard to ask for a more promising start.
First forgotten albums: the 61 most eclipsed first albums of rock
From David Bowie’s little-known debut to Dave Grohl’s pre-Nirvana record with Scream.