The son of the mighty Edward Van Halen, Wolfgang, has broken out on his own with an album that holds the name of a band but is in reality nothing but a solo record where Wolfie has written everything on his own and plays all the instruments. However, according to Wolfie, Mammoth WVH will be a real band when touring is possible and the next album is said to be more of a band thing. The name Mammoth was chosen because it’s the name Van Halen used to have before they decided on Van Halen – and in the beginning EVH was also that band’s lead singer before they recruited David Lee Roth. I guess this way WVH can pay tribute to his dad and go full circle at the same time.
Wolfgang Van Halen is, of course, no rookie – and even if he, with a dad like EVH and an uncle like AVH, has been around music and everything involved since birth and would most likely not come across as a rookie even if he was one. As a teen he joined Van Halen as a replacement for Michael Anthony playing the bass both on tour and on their final album A Different Kind Of Truth (2012) and he was also in Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti’s solo side project Tremonti, again as the bassist. But with Mammoth WVH it’s all about Wolfie – and I guess I wasn’t alone in being majorly interested how this would sound – and how good it would be.
When EVH passed away, Wolfgang released the single ”Distance” as a tribute to his pa, a song where he put all of his feelings out in the open. It’s a very personal song and Wolfie wasn’t originally gonna put it on the album but it was too good a song so it ended up here as a bonus track anyway. It’s an upbeat and quite rhythmic number yet with held-back vocal-melodies which puts it close to balladry. It’s a heartfelt number with a chunky of modern kind of radio-rock involved where all the melodies brings on the hooks and the chorus is really catchy. But take one look at the video and listen to the words here. ”I’m so happy, you found a place that’s better for you…” – yes, it’s a real tearjerker if there ever was one. A great track.
Opener ”Mr Ed”, another nod to his dad, is an upbeat and pretty straight-forward rocker with a 90’s Hard Rock vibe to it and a darker outlook musically. It holds a meaty riff and a steady beat and despite the title it bears no resemblance to EVH at all, except maybe for the tap in the solo. Great track. ”Horribly Right” is more of an uptempo hard-rocker with alternative 90’s influences and some Foo Fighters meets Audioslave pop-rock vibes. It’s quite punchy and rough with some Classic Rock touches thrown in as well. The chorus is distinct and hits right off the bat. A really good song that maybe should have opened the album.
”Epiphany” kicks off with some beefy and firey drum patterns and a groovy, chunky bass-line which grows into some kind of power-pop belter where WVH throws in both 80’s and late 90’s influences into the pot. It’s an earthy rocker with some direct vocal-melodies and a distinct catchiness when the chorus arrives. Good one. Second single ”Don’t Back Down” is on the heavier and rowdier side. The verses are a bit more held back albeit still with a big groove and the guitars are both crunchy and edgy. With a big arena-rock vibe, the chorus hits hard and leaves no room for surrender but that said, it do sport a bit of a Nickelback vibe. It’s an ok track but it doesn’t really stick with me.
”Resolve” is a rhythmic pop/rock groover that mixes acoustic guitars, clean and distorted guitars which brings on a big, fat sound with a darker atmosphere but still with a truckload of hooks in every melody. With mid 90’s touches and a mellower Alice In Chains touch, the song do bring on a striking refrain that’s very memorable. Good one. ”You’ll Be The One” is a real riffy stomper – upbeat, heavy and rough-edged. It might come in a mid-pace and it is a bit laid-back at times but the infectious pop-influences and the muscular outlook makes the song perfect for the stage. The AC/DC-like riff and the pumping beat makes it another arena-rocker. Good one.
”Mammoth”, the latest single, is more of a modern radio-rock groover where some neo-grunge sounds has been added and a big pop-rock vibe, Foo Fighters style, is quite prominent. It’s rhythmically sturdy and even though the verses might be a bit on the laid-back side, they’re still quite beefy and the chorus is really catchy, perfect for rock-radio. That said, I think it’s decent track but this isn’t my keg of beer musically. An upbeat ballad or a down-beat rocker, feel free to choose, ”Circles” comes with a darkening, mid 90’s touch and a Pink Floyd-ish twist. It holds a mellow soundscape and as a whole, to my ears it sounds like a ballad with an alternative twist. It’s ok but it falls kinda flat.
With a way rougher edge, the fat and heavy ”The Big Picture” throws out some effective and rowdy riffage and a solid, steady rhythm with a chunky groove. It’s slightly grungy and the chorus brings on some Alice In Chains influenced harmonies mixed up with some Cheap Trick melody-lines. Said chorus is distinct, effective and impossible not to embrace – a damn good rocker that really hits home with me. ”Think It Over” is more or less a pop-song in a rock-suit, very straight ahead and with some stand-out hooks and a vocal melody that really nails it. There’s some AOR-vibes to the song as well which has one foot in the late 80’s and the chorus is nothing but astounding. Brilliant. Should be a single at some point.
”You’re To Blame” is a slower paced, rhythmic late 90’s rocker with some edgy guitars, pop-hooks and bouncy drums. It’s rough yet smooth with a pretty memorable main-melody but the chorus could be stronger. It’s ok but it never really sticks. Third single ”Feel” comes along kicking and biting with an edgy live-feel but fails to impress and fades from my memory quite fast while the slow and heavy ”Stone” brings on more Alice In Chains vibes and some Black Sabbath nods mixed up with some grand pop-twists. The verses here starts out slower and a bit low-key but it soon heavies up with a ballsy rhythm and some cranking guitars complete with a huge vocal melody and a chorus that means business and takes no prisoners. A brilliant track and maybe the album’s finest moment.
While Wolfgang has inherited tons and tons of talent and every performance on this record is faultless, the material do come with some shortcomings. Sure, most of the songs here varies between good and great but with fourteen tracks on the album, there are a few too many that I have to file under ”filler”, songs that just don’t connect with me at all. On the good side, it’s impossible to get feeling that this album is a one-man project as I get a band-feel of the whole production – it feels alive and breathing and it really sounds good in both my phone and my car-stereo so kudos there as well. To sum it up, it’s worth buying but it could also have been better. That being said, I’d love to see Mammoth WVH live and I can’t wait for the next album when WVH’s band-mates will be involved.