You’re in for some seriously evil fun.
Chris Ulsh has a way with names. His project Mammoth Grinder is the most aptly named band since Mastodon. Even before you hear a note of their music, you can imagine—likely with some accuracy—that their style of punky death metal might actually be capable of grinding up a mammoth. And with an album name like Cosmic Crypt featuring song titles like “Superior Firepower” and “Rotting Rubes,” you’re in for some seriously evil fun.
Ulsh blew up the lineup he used for 2013’s Underworlds by switching to bass from guitar and then adding guitarist Mark Bronzino and drummer Ryan Parrish from Iron Reagan (among several other bands between them). The four-plus years between releases is at least partially due to Ulsh’s commitment in Power Trip, which took up a large chunk of last year in support of the fantastic Nightmare Logic. But neither the rigorous schedule Ulsh has maintained nor the notable gap between albums has dulled Mammoth Grinder’s edges.
Quite the opposite. Cosmic Crypt is the leanest of MG’s four records, and it finds the trio operating in a no-bullshit mode for its 28-minute runtime. Gone are any progressive experiments where an MG song lasted longer than (gasp!) four minutes, as on Rage and Ruin or their 2011 split with Hatred Surge. Here, only three songs of the 11 crack three minutes, and the majority of them are shorter. Energy alone carries most of these songs forward. The insistent “Molotov” and the title track with its curly-cue riff lean on their punk side with the “attitude and a riff is all you need” mindset guiding their superbly efficient onslaught. Even the whammy-bar solos are but a few seconds apiece so as not to waste a moment of the listener’s time.
Where the album truly shines, though, is when MG pulls the rug out from under you. “Superior Firepower” is the most illustrative. It starts out as a fairly standard, mid-tempo death metal stomp. Then, Parrish signals a gear change with a small fill and the song hits an unseen destructive gallop designed to steamroll the listener. The trio concludes by returning to the song’s original speed as if to say, “See, we control what happens.” A similar trick is used in “Human Is Obsolete” with Ulsh’s chugging bass signaling the surprisingly groovy explosion, as well as on “Divine Loss,” which sounds like a sleeping beast that’s suddenly awakened and angrily stampedes in response.
Mammoth Grinder, like many if its ilk, are more about the sublimation of primitive caveman club-swinging than anything else. Yes, it can be difficult to tell these songs apart with only a casual listen, but Cosmic Crypt is more about the overall lizard-brain feeling being conveyed than focusing on individual tracks. MG’s wanton carnage, complete with Ulsh’s hellhound bark, only seeks to scare the hell outta you and make you question your own sanity. Whatever a Cosmic Crypt is, it’s clear after a short visit that you don’t wanna stay there.