Sound — 9
Mammal are a 4-piece rock outfit from Australia formed in 2006. Since then they have been a driving force in the Australian independent music scene. Their first album "Vol. 1: The Aural Underground" was, rather unusually, a live album of entirely new material. The Majority is their second full-length album and the first studio album from the band. Staying true to their "no labels" approach to music, Mammal funded the album through a combination of their own hard work and fan support, taking pre-orders for the album. The Majority was produced with the help of American producer Ben Sarafin and distributed through MGM (Metropolitan Groove Merchants), an independent CD distributor based in Sydney. So already, without delving into the actual sound of the album Mammal have developed a level of character and purpose that many bands lack; they have a message and a definite cause, they are all about the music and the fans. The Majority is an 11-track slice of take-no-prisoners hard rock, drawing some influence from Rage Against The Machine, sans the rap-style vocals, with a little bit of funk and prog-rock thrown in for good measure, Mammal display a passion and vitriol that gets the hands in the air and the fans singing along. Taking up the duties of vocals and principal songwriter is Ezekiel Ox, who, alongside owning quite possibly the most incredible name ever, has the passion and voice of someone who is truly convicted to his craft. On guitar is Pete Williamson, who plays some great riffs and complex solos that draw on a wealth of influences; from the 90's alternative scene to progressive rock, his riffs are a driving wall of sound with massive power and presence, he's also no stranger to effects which he puts to great use in a number of songs. His solos are well thought out and effective, always matching the pace and feeling of the song. Bassist Nick Adams is an absolute powerhouse, throwing out thumping, growling basslines that thud against your eardrums with unrelenting aggression and thanks to the stellar production you can really hear his grooves. And lastly, but not least(ly) is Zane Rosanoski on drums whose skills should not be underestimated. Working in tandem with Nick, he lays down some complex rhythms and aggressive beats with an energy and flair that is rarely seen. Now would be a good time to mention the absolutely incredible production on this album. For the band's first studio effort they've pulled no punches. Each instrument is clear and strong, each part is easily picked out and appreciated. Now, as is customary for me, a track-by-track breakdown: 01. "The Aurual Underground": straight from the opening riff you know where this song is going. An upbeat, high-energy, singalong song with a verse that is carried along by a sweet bass groove and little guitar hooks here and there. Excellent opener that sets the tone for the rest of the album. 02. "Smash the Pinata": the first single released from The Majority and the first song to receive some airplay on Scuzz TV over here in the UK and the song that introduced me and many other to Mammal. It's an amazing track, opening with a small drum roll and a killer bass riff. With rapid fire, spoken word vocals and a great drop-D riff carrying the whole thing along. The entire song is a build-up to a massive crescendo which explodes in the last minute of the song. A very strong track, packed with energy and great pace. 03. "Bending Rules": this a track that sort of lumbers along at a steady, marching pace with some nice muted guitar riffing, steady drumming and a growling bassline. The entire song goes into overdrive in the chorus, with heavy, distorted riffing, aggressive drumming and a bassline that hops up and down. Another strong track. 04. "The Majority": a balls-out, take-no-prisoners hard rock song with a great driving riff, thumping bassline and drumming that fits the tone perfectly. Excellent singalong moments which I can't recreate here for fear of moderation, no strange instruments, no slow segues, just an unapologetic, angry and energy-packed song. 05. "Mr. Devil": drawing heavily on their funk influences, Mr. Devil is a slower song, providing a respite after the 4-song onslaught and creating a nice little half-way resting point. With some great funk riffs and a bassline that will have you dancing along, this is a very simple, but very effective song with great guitar licks and an excellent vocal performance. 06. "Religion": this song starts off as quite a slow number, with a dark, almost menacing atmosphere. The bass in this song is so full and huge that it makes it feel like there's an impending apocalypse with great, minimalist drumming and sparse guitar works this song really creates a soundscape. Halfway through the song the guitar breaks into a great solo, its not one of those cram-as-many-notes-as-you-can-on solos, its a slow-going solo, which matches the pace and feeling greatly before the entire song explodes into a hard-driving number with a great riff. 07. "Clear Enough?": I love this song, it ties for best song on the album with "Smash the Pinata". The Ox's rapid-fire vocals are filled with barely-contained aggression. The verses are carried along with spartan drumming and a trudging bassline, with the guitar coming in halfway through the verse. The chorus is a soaring, explosive affair with another excellent singalong moment. The solo in this song is very reminiscent of something Tom Morello would pull out, before segueing into a short bit of tapping that pulls the whole thing back a moment and slows it down. A very strong track. 08. "Burn Out": another funk-influenced track which will probably get you dancing along. A nice little guitar riff takes the whole thing along, with less-is-more drumming and a bassline that moves all over the place. 09. "Hollywood Shrine": opening with an interesting piece of drumming work, this song is an effect-laden rollercoaster that goes between slow and reserved to loud and in your face. Ox's vocals really shine and all the members, as you would expect by now, put in a great performance. 10. "Zero Infinity": an odd track this, some might call it filler and to be honest its probably the weakest song on the album and I'm not sure if I like it. It features some strange instruments, traditional-sounding drums, and I'm pretty sure I hear a didgeridoo in there somewhere. It's a strange instrumental number. Maybe the band wanted to try something new but I'm not sure this was a good idea. It doesn't really fit the feel of the album, but hey, I'm not the one making the music, and given Mammal's excellent performance thus far I can allow for one bad track. 11. "Living in Sin": a 7-minute track which makes it a little too long for my liking. A lengthy, phasing intro gives way to the bass and drums, with the bass sounding huge with growling tone. Ox's vocals, as always, border on aggression, before the whole thing transforms into a bright, almost angelic sounding chorus. This track really does go all over the place. The last two minutes are pretty much an entire different song which was probably too short to put on as its own track, which would explain the track length. Overall, this is a very strong album. None of the tracks sound alike and they're all easy to pick out. There's a definite formula but its one that isn't restrictive, it allows the bands to utilise their numerous influences and create some truly creative and interesting music. Low points would be the track Zero Infinity which I feel was a little unncessary. I appreciate that the band are trying new things but I'm not sure an instrumental track is the way to go. This album could've stood up quite easily with 10-tracks and I don't feel like this particular song adds anything to the overall sound of the album. However, the other 10 tracks are very, very good, each with its own strengths.
Lyrics — 10
I'll start this by saying that Ezekiel Ox is a man with a message. That particular message is one about rejecting the capitalist society, rejecting racism and class divide and not being a slave to corporations and the like. Sure, this might seem a bit clichd, and its one of those things that, if you try to pull it off and fail you'll look like some adolescent who just started college and thinks they know how the world works. Luckily, Ox deftly avoids this pitfall and delivers lyrics and songs that are on par with bands like Rage Against the Machine and Rise Against in terms of lyrical content and message. The album is full of great lyrics, and each song (barring Zero Infinity, which is an instrumental) contains a line or a chorus that strikes a note. The Aural Underground for example has the excellent: "We're not asking, we're just doing / We aint no hit machine, we're just here to please your soul." Which quite accurately evokes the band's independent standpoint. Smash the Pinata features standout lyrics such as: "My point? Is that I have one. / My stength? Is that I have some". Each song is very strong lyrically, with Smash the Pinata, The Majority and Clear Enough? taking the prizes. Clear Enough? especially is a lyrical masterpiece, with Ox delivering a vocal barrage, decrying the values that popular society has placed on us: "I just caught a glimpse of your cellulite/ Sell your fat bits, then you cop s*** for the body that culture delivered you." And the repeated line "Take a good look at perfection that you'll never have" is an excellent message for the way society presents celebrities and on-screen families as being perfect and beautiful, creating standards that are impossible for the average person to meet. I cannot praise Ox's lyrics enough, and his vocals are strong enough to back up his bold statements. Sometimes he lets loose with rage and other times he sings some soaring clean parts. He's got a good set of pipes on him and a very unique vocal style that I can't really compare to anyone else. He is a huge part in creating Mammal's unique sound.
Overall Impression — 10
Seeing as this is the first studio album, made by a band renowned for their live performances and their on stage energy, I can honestly say that Mammal have rarely put a foot wrong here. It's an amazing offering from this band, with excellent production, excellent displays of technical ability and excellent lyrics. A strong, rich album that I think any fan of rock music can take something away from, whether it be the funk stylings of "Mr. Devil" and "Burn Out" or the hard rock antics of "The Majority" and "The Aural Underground" there's something for everyone who appreciated creative, technical and meaningful rock music. There's a lot of stuff coming out of Australia recently, a lot of strong rock acts; Karnivool, The Butterfly Effect, Cog etc etc, and I know none of them are "recent" per se, but their effect is only now being felt outside of Australia. But among all of these stellar bands, I feel as though Mammal reigns supreme. With an unstoppable passion and a strong work ethic, this band harkens has a very organic and personal feel. They're making music not to become millionaires, but because it means something and they love it. They have a message to send and they're doing through the medium of brilliant rock music. I urge you check this out, especially if you're a RATM fan, but even if you're not, check them out immediately, you'd be a fool to miss it.