June 11 sees the release of the much anticipated debut of Mammoth WVH. The band is obviously comprised of one single element, Wolfgang Van Halen (aka Wolfie), and he’s been doing a kind of soft opening of the album, with several songs being released to the public every now and again. Now, we’re finally able to check out all songs on the order they’re intended to appear, and able to evaluate his work as a whole.
Wolfgang has endured a fair share of criticism since the beginning of his musical career: he helped his now late father Eddie Van Halen get his act together and reform Van Halen, but the fact that he replaced the band’s original bass player Michael Anthony did not appease the more radical part of the fan base. Little did they know that without Wolfie, chances are we wouldn’t have had any of the many tours the band did since 2007. He put together the setlists, dusting off many deep cuts of the band’s discography, and exuded a youthful energy that put a smile on Eddie’s face every night. He was also the curator of the old demos that Eddie, his brother Alex and singer David Lee Roth would revisit to put together 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth,” which would become the band’s last ever studio release.
Far from riding on his father’s coattails, Wolfie chose to tread his own path, and did a few musical explorations by himself: he toured with Mark Tremonti and played bass on two of his albums, and played drums on Clint Lowery’s solo album “God Bless the Renegades.” His debut however, is perhaps his most ambitious project to date, and has been under preparation since at least 2015. The intention was to release it in 2018 and tour, but plans were put aside due to Eddie’s illness, to which he sadly succumbed on October 6th 2020.
Without even getting into the musical side of things on the album, there’s something to be said about Wolfie’s courage to take center stage and be the driving force of a musical entity like Mammoth WVH. Jason Bonham, Jakob Dylan, Julian Lennon and many other sons and daughters of famous musicians went on the same path, but their parents’ fame meant they were set to fail from the get go. Their ancestor’s success might have opened doors, but the bar is raised so high that living up to the fan’s expectations becomes an unfair and insurmountable task. Wolfie seems fully aware of this, and consciously tries to avoid writing music on the same style as his father’s.
Kicking off the self-titled album, we hear “Mr. Ed”, which obviously alludes to Eddie Van Halen, but only in its title. The song would easily fit on a Foo Fighters album, and brings a chorus that would work rather well in an arena. The solo here bridges the gap between old and new, with twists and turns that would make Eddie proud, but which does not mimic his style.
“Horribly Right” is yet another high-octane song, followed by the more cadenced “Epiphany”. “Don’t Back Down” kicks things back into gear, with a fast pace, layered vocals and guitars, and droplets of Muse and Jimmy Eat World. The gap between grunge and hard rock is narrowed on songs like “Resolve” and “The Big Picture”, while pop rock sets the tone of “Think It Over”.
Perhaps the most dynamic and complex songs on this release, “Mammoth” and “Feel” explore different musical avenues, with twists and turn that escape the obvious and allow Wolfie to showcase his abilities on all instruments. The Tool influence is strong on “You’re to Blame” and “Stone”, with syncopated and repeated riffs setting the tone and adding extra heaviness to the proceedings.
Curiously, the album is closed by the first song ever revealed from this release, the evocative “Distance”, which pays homage to Wolfie’s dad and brings tears to the eyes of anyone with a pulse. Although many songs stand out, the feeling is that they work better in the context of the album than as isolated tracks. Overall, this guitar-driven pop rock of an album will benefit from repeated listens.
At 30 years of age, with a handful or world tours on his belt, and a worldwide best-selling album, Wolfie has seen more shit go down on a typical Tuesday than any of us mere mortals can aspire to see in our entire lifetime. If like me you’re a fan of Eddie, listen to this album with open eyes and ears, and don’t expect even a hint of Van Halen, except for a blink-and-you’ll miss-it moment on “Don’t Back Down”. Wolfie was of course born in the 90’s, so his influences are more Rage Against the Machine than The Who, more Tool than Led Zeppelin. Nothing wrong with that though – his debut is a triumph of artistry, musical prowess and perseverance, and his personality clearly shines throughout these tracks. The next step in his career is a coveted and well deserved spot as opening act of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ upcoming North American tour, and the fact that he’s already a seasoned musician while still having plenty of gas in his creative tank can only help him grow as an artist. Expect to hear his name in this business for many years to come.
Release Date: June 11th, 2021
Genre: Pop Rock
- Wolfgang Van Halen
“Mammoth WVH” track listing:
- Mr. Ed
- Horribly Right
- Don’t Back Down
- You’ll Be The One
- The Big Picture
- Think It Over
- You’re To Blame
- Distance (Bonus Track)
Riffs and hooks abound on Mammoth WVH’s debut, one of the most expected albums of 2021. Wolfgang Van Halen wisely pursued a new sound, closer to his musical influences than to his heritage, and put together an impressive collection of songs. Melodic, heavy and emotionally charged, this is a great starting point of a promising musical career for Wolfie, and a welcome shot of adrenaline on the current sonic landscape.