Words by Stína Satanía
The review was originally printed in Reykjavík On Stage (Issue 2)
The Icelandic five-piece Mammút mix a high emotional depth with a thick and dark rock sound on their fourth album Kinder Versions, released on 14 July via the London-based Bella Union. The band signed to the foreign label last year, making Kinder Versions their long-awaited international breakout. This release also brings another change, with only English lyrics on the album, a first for the band.
Mammút sprang to life in 2003. The band evolved into a quintet and quickly became a fixture of the local scene. In spite of numerous sonic changes over the course of their career, they steadily grew in power and personality. With a spectacular fourth album, Mammút are now ready to shake the world with the ambling basslines of their prehistoric steps.
The highest quality is here, from the very first notes of the first melody. ‘We Tried Love’ is a strong number about the deepest feeling of the heart, with nice twists and turns, framed by the drums of Andri Bjartur Jakobsson and led by Ása Dýradóttir’s bass. The song is colored by a wonderful finale, with vocals reminiscent of Sigur Rós’s ‘Olsen Olsen’.
Mammút propels us headfirst into a haunting atmosphere. Katrína Mogensen, the vocalist, is a master of emotional story-telling. A kind of melodic tension sneaks in, bites from the inside, turns into intensity with every electronic beat and quietly runs through all the album. The title track ‘Kinder Version’ is a perfect example of the wall of sound that is Mammút’s specialty. The song is as thick and hypnotizing as mercury.
‘Bye Bye’ is a punch to the face, with somber tones and lyrics like: ‘I don’t wanna stand up, get up’. The song breaks a madly intense cycle in the album with a heartfelt vocal delivery. The apparent calm doesn’t stay around for long though. ‘The Moon Will Never Turn On Me’ seems to be a natural lyrical extension of ‘Bye Bye’, but the track outlines the power of Katrína’s voice in full-spectrum arrangements with more dynamics and more room to breathe. Speaking of breathing, the first single from Kinder Versions, ‘Breathe Into Me’, turns out to be the most sensual and captivating song on the album.
There is something beautiful to Mammút’s groovy guitar sounds, composed by Alexandra Baldursdóttir and Arnar Pétursson. This darker, more galloping side of their music jumps to the front stage on ‘Walls’. Sinking further into the same mood, the guitars on ‘What’s Your Secret’ seem to work in harmonious desynchronization. The ambiance is pulsating, dancing around hypnotizing bass and drums. We are but one step from sonic witchcraft. And then the haunting and almost obsessive ‘Pray For Air’ bursts with guitar madness, Mammút at its best.
For a few minutes, ‘Sorrow’ comes to soothe our senses after that intense prayer. Yet again, not for long, since Mammút likes sharp contrasts and solid textures. The record’s closing moments on ‘Sorrow’ could easily blast your eardrums. But in that wall of sound, there is a doorway to a higher dimension, where the rhythm section speeds up like a well-oiled machine. And you know you have to listen to it loud.
Kinder Versions and I clicked immediately, even though I always needed some time to fully appreciate Mammút’s previous works. This record goes deeper down the dark path first trodden on Komdu til mín svarta systir. The album in its entirety is very coherent and full of dark magic. So focus on the sound and enjoy it to the fullest!
Mammút – Kinder Versions
1. We Tried Love
2. Kinder Version
3. Bye Bye
4. The Moon Will Never Turn On Me
5. Breathe Into Me
7. What’s Your Secret
8. Pray For Air