In 2007, a famous rock band from the 1980s reunited with their original singer, an eccentric sometimes flamboyant sort, for a tour no one ever thought possible.
Remaining acrimony within the band however prevented a full return of the original line-up so the teenage son of the founding member filled in on bass guitar leaving purists raising their eyebrows and fans watching a kid bounce around on stage with his rock star dad trying to be cool.
Little did we know, Wolfgang Van Halen wasn’t just a fill-in so Van Halen the band could hit the road with David Lee Roth for the first time in more than 20 years.
Today, the 30-year old son of the late Eddie Van Halen, dropped his debut self-titled album wrapped up in a band called Mammoth WVH. WVH needs no explanation, the Mammoth coming from the name of Van Halen before Van Halen with Eddie Van Halen as lead singer. Little influence from his father’s primary band filters in on Mammoth WVH, instead you hear quite possibly the best out of three worlds from Foo Fighters, Anthrax and Shinedown, in this rather outstanding and ambitious nearly hour long 14 song record.
Mammoth WVH Album Review
Wolfgang Van Halen arranges his Mammoth WVH album near flawlessly with memorable harmonies, polished phrasing and striking rhythms inside an intricate mix of soft melodies and driving melodies, hearty and intricate guitar, and well-done rhythm changes, sometimes all in one song. He sings, and can sing in various tones and pitches, and plays all the instruments – guitars, bass, drums – whatever you hear, Wolfgang has his hands in it. Named after the famous composer, Wolfgang Van Halen is already proving himself a modern day Amadeus in the rock world.
Mammoth WVH opens with catchy beats in “Mr. Ed” and immediately you get the idea that Wolfgang has his guitar work down. The hard rocker “Horribly Right” follows and nope, this isn’t Foo Fighters – definitely could be – this is Mammoth WVH. What a great song. It only gets better with the bass leading on “Epiphany” in this solid modern rock song akin to something from Jimmy Eat World’s catalogue. Lots of brilliant guitar fills this one out.
What’s missing? Oh right, let’s not forget the drum work – how Wolfgang got his start way back when – which highlights “Don’t Back Down” in this influenced-by-metal rocker that changes the pace and focus of the album. “Resolve” softens the tone as Wolfgang reaches for some quick higher vocal notes for some depth but the guitar still steals most of the show. Hear some Collective Soul in “You’ll be the One” and along with “Mammoth” both resume the alternative rock garage guitar sound which give way to “Circles” a softer track flavored with some keyboards and thoughtful reflection.
Chris Cornell comes alive in Wolfgang’s vocal work on “The Big Picture” a heavier, guitar-centric track that taps into the grunge era and the 90s continue on “Think It Over” a pop alternative rock gem reminiscent of those from that decade. By now it should be clear Mammoth WVH taps into various influences to create an all-encompassing sound.
“You’re to Blame” keeps the power on with concentrated guitar chords, at times overlaid, for a robust sound in this well-mixed track. “Feel” delivers a killer guitar and drum jam midway through Wolfgang probably wasn’t even able to appreciate until he put it altogether and hit the playback button. Mammoth WVH never hits rock-bottom but the slow pace of the guitar-bellowing “Stone” begins to wear on the album, now 13 songs in, but really a lot going on in this one requires a few more listens and you don’t want to tune out because album closer “Distance” completely changes the tempo and character of the record, a touching love song of sorts with delicate rock guitar and fully expressed emotion, lyrically and melodically, that draws you right into the loss of Wolfgang’s father or perhaps even your own.
Mammoth WVH works in lots of hard rock, pop rock and some modern rock but avoids the common radio friendly clichés so often made from simple beats and harmonies. Heavy and sometimes hard, Mammoth WVH leaves the angst and sometimes overtly grit, you get with metal bands that raise your blood pressure, far behind. Instead, this album offers a reminder of why you like rock music in the first place.
You really can’t help but root for Wolfgang Van Halen, not just because of the footsteps he’s following, but because Mammoth WVH helps refill a musical well quickly running dry.
Mammoth WVH Songs:
- Horribly Right
- Don’t Back Down
- You’ll Be the One
- The Big Picture
- Think It Over
- You’re to Blame