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Blue Mammoth

Blue Mammoth

Review by Gary Hill
This is a modern progressive rock album (the group’s debut) that will please fans of old school prog. While it occasionally turns a little crunchy, this never rises near the level of metal. The song compositions run from single track pieces to multi-song suites. The music is symphonic and powerful. I’d have to say that this might wind up near the top of my list for best albums of 2011. It’s that good. There’s really an energy and excitement that is maintained throughout and while everything seems to fit together, it never feels repetitive. I’m looking forward to seeing where this band goes.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Blue Mammoth: I – Overture – The Awakening of a Giant

This track starts off quite symphonic with keyboards creating the bulk of the sound. There’s some intriguing percussion involved. Then around them minute and a half mark it powers out to a powerhouse prog arrangement that has some world music in the song-structure. This is a killer instrumental opening that has a symphonic and rock sound built into it.

Blue Mammoth: II – The King of Power
This again starts with keyboards, but it fires out into some killer hard rocking jams from there. While the vocals really would feel at home in some epic metal piece, this is purely progressive rock. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some crunch built into it, but rather the mix lands well on the side of progressive rock. There are some intriguing changes and alterations built into this powerhouse and it just shows how talented these guys are. The guitar solo section is very fusion-oriented. In later sections of this the bass work really makes me think of Geddy Lee at times. Although the guitar on some of the later sections brings this close to metal, there is a fast paced and playful little jam as the outro that’s pure progressive rock.
Blue Mammoth: III – Winter Winds
The song structure on this is less dynamic and the structure less complex. It starts off balladic and then powers up as it continues. In some ways this number reminds me a bit of the emotional powerhouses that Nektar often created. It has some crunch, but there’s no question that this progressive rock rather than heavy metal. There’s a cool keyboard dominated instrumental section later in the track.
Blue Mammoth: IV – Coda – Back Again
This powerhouse is a reprise of the main musical themes that began this ride. It’s a great way to end the suite in style. The short closing section feels a lot like Kansas.
Metamorphosis
Kansas is also a fair reference point here. This is hard rocking and more pure neo-prog. That said, it fits well into the progressive rock rather than metallic side of the equation. There’s a cool keyboard driven instrumental section later in the piece. As they continue from there it takes on sounds that again make me think of Nektar a bit. This thing just keeps evolving and reinventing itself. There’s just a cool originality to it, despite the somewhat familiar reference points. Like the entire album there’s a real energy and excitement here. The closing riff really feels like 1970s hard rock.
The Rain of Changes - A Poet Spirit Voyage: I – Growin’
This starts in a keyboard based ballad motif and the first vocals are delivered in that style. The track grows out from there as the guitar solos in a fine instrumental section. Then we get a return to keyboard dominated music as they continue sans vocals. They work through some changes and alterations as they work through. Then it powers out with a killer bass line driving the piece. They keep reworking and reinventing this extended instrumental movement. Further down the road we get a synthesizer solo that serves as the prelude to the return to the vocal section. A cool, harder edged section slows this down and ends it, but it’s left without resolution to slip into the next piece.
The Rain of Changes - A Poet Spirit Voyage: II – Who We Are
Serving as the resolution of the previous song, this comes in melodic and evocative with a real mellow progressive rock sound. I’m reminded a bit of a combination of Spock’s Beard and Genesis as this works out. It continues by expanding on the same musical themes. At times it turns harder rocking, but it’s very much a slow moving, symphonic progressive rock composition. There’s a very dramatic instrumental section later in the piece that seems to combine classical sensibilities with rock sounds. From there we get a more powerful version of the song’s central themes. I can make out Nektar again in later sections, but also the Flower Kings.
The Rain of Changes - A Poet Spirit Voyage: III – The Sun’s Face Through Dark Clouds
Vocals open this without instrumental accompaniment. More vocals are added and the harmonies are pretty impressive both in their sound and compositional complexity. After a little over half a minute like that it powers out into some of the hardest rocking music of the album. Kansas is a valid reference point, but this is very much in keeping with the keyboard laden hard rock sounds of the 1970s. It’s a killer jam that really works. There’s a great synthesizer solo later in the tune. Another vocal section gets built up in dramatic fashion before it gives way to a slower movement. Keyboards bring that, and the suite, to a satisfying conclusion.
Same Old Sad Tale
Keyboard start this and the vocals come in with a powerful tale about the personal horrors of war. They build this musical motif for a while, but then fire out into a harder rocking instrumental section that again calls to mind 1970s progressive rock from there. They continue changing and altering this and there’s an energized jam later as the vocals return. At the end there’s a short mellow section that ends it on a sad note.
Quixote's Dream: I – Farewell my Lady
Sound effects and percussion lead this off. Then acoustic instrumentation rises up in a lively jam that again makes me think of Nektar a bit. This is just a short instrumental introduction to the suite.
Quixote's Dream: II – Hero
Acoustic guitar opens this and keys come over the top. The vocals join in classic progressive rock fashion as this continues. They continue working it out from there, but then an acoustic guitar dominated instrumental section moves it in different directions. The keyboards solo from there in a classic rock motif. Eventually we’re dropped back into the earlier sections for a return of the vocals. They build it out in similar fashion from there and continue with reworking of the musical themes in classic prog style. It gets incredibly powerful as they continue and then crescendos.
Quixote's Dream: III – Solitude – The Sad End of a Dreamer
A mellow old world musical style creates the sad ending to this suite. This is instrumental and less than a minute in length. It’s also quite pretty.
Resurrection Day
Essentially a ballad, this is pretty, but parts of it rock out pretty hard, while other parts are focused on more keyboard dominated sounds. All in all, it’s a great tune. It might not be the most complex thing here, but it’s rich and poignant. A cool mellower section ends it nicely.
Infinite Strangers
As a fast moving hard rocking section opens this, it feels like Nektar. It drops back for the first vocals and then builds out from there in a rather Yes-like arrangement. It stays fairly stripped back and really has a slowly changing motif for a while. Then it fires out with some crunch. It continues altering and growing as they work through. There’s a cool keyboard solo near the end, then the percussion takes over to close it out in style.
 
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