Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beardfish - Mammoth

Beardfish is a very talented 4-piece band formed in Sweden in 2001, and this is their fourth album to come out on InsideOut Music. Though you wouldn't guess they're Swedish. These guys are about as oldschool prog rock as you can get nowadays. Besides a difference in production quality, if you listened to this knowing nothing about the band, you'd probably guess this album came out in the 70's. There are many parallels that can be drawn to bands like Yes, early Genesis, and even some Pink Floyd-esque moments. This album has all the distinctive qualities associated with 70's progressive rock: it's got a 15 minute epic, insane breaks and unexpected shifts in tempo at the drop of a hat, instruments like organs and saxophones thrown into the mix, and very often epic story telling lyrics. Not to mention minutes of what you could call "instrumental wankery" that prog fans love and non-fans often roll their eyes at.
However these guys aren't just carbon copies of their influences, that's for sure. While they do sound very 70's prog, they do put a modern spin on things. As I briefly stated before, the production here sounds much more modern than the style of music their playing. You can hear all of the instruments clear and crisp, and the vocals are layered nicely on top. The music feels very big and epic, like a lot of prog does, and most of the time there's plenty of things to hold your attention without getting too complex or piled on top of itself. These vocals aren't the most amazing or innovative, but they're far from badly sung and they go with the music very appropriately. You'd never guess they're Swedish, either. It's all sung in English and there's no sign of a noticeable accent. Beardfish in the past (specifically on their last album Destined Solitaire) have been a bit strange when it comes to the mood of the lyrics. They would go from usual prog like, and even Iron Maiden like, lyrics with descriptive story telling to very tongue-in-cheek silly lyrics such as "Trying to find my reptile brain/ But then I'm gonna nuke it/ Then I'm gonna send the motherfucker flying.../ byebye brain...". There's even been some laugh out loud moments on that previous record. However there's less of that here, which some will like and some won't. Beardfish have done very well in avoiding the problem that turns a lot of people off of prog rock, and that's being pretentious. There's still plenty of insane instrumentals and weird song structures, but there's a sense of near-parody about it. It seems like these guys just really love playing, and they want to have as much fun with it as they can. This isn't one of those prog albums where people can sit and argue over how and why it's "deep". Which will be fantastic news for some and bummer news for others. Overall I'd say this album strikes a good balance between taking itself too seriously and not taking itself seriously enough. It is what it is and they don't seem to put too much thought into what they're doing, and they just do it. And the end product is a lovely thing. However I will say that the lyrics can seem a bit cheesy at times, but you can have fun with it if you let yourself. While not being the most innovative or fresh thing out there, they're definitely good at what they're doing and do it to a near perfection. And they just keep getting better and better.
As a huge fan of prog past and present myself, including the often called "pretentious" stuff, I absolutely adore this album and think anyone else with a love for the progressive or 70's rock in general will love this. Especially if you're sick of "new prog" and are nostalgic for the old days. Just don't go into it trying to take it or yourself more seriously than you need to. Give it a listen and have fun with it and I'm sure you'll enjoy the hell out of it. However if you're cynical of those that wear their influences on their sleeves, you might want to steer clear of here.


Favorites: The Platform, And the Stone Said: If I Could Speak, Green Waves


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