It would only make sense that next week’s Secret Show at Central Gallery in Bangor, a spot frequented by more and more Portland acts (and for good reason), would feature one of our city’s best-kept secrets. Since their live debut at the Damnationland Soundtrack Release Party late last year, Bully Mammoth has been aggravating and pummeling confused audience members with their utterly unsympathetic brand of noise and distress. Their music is not nice nor catchy nor therapeutic. They are the type of band that you find yourself watching with gritted teeth, all tension and little release. They are also easily one of the best heavy bands currently operating, period.
That being said, you are unlikely to understand how great what they’re doing actually is until really digging into their material, which you are unlikely to do because they are sure to turn you off before you give them a chance. I do not mean this as an insult. This is specifically antagonistic music with lyrics that sound mean when they aren’t incomprehensible, relentlessly powerful drums and fuzzy bass and guitar that very rarely come close to playing anything sounding major.
Simply put, Bully Mammoth do not care about you, which is a huge part of what makes them so great.
Visit their Bandcamp page and you can start to understand how little playing the game matters to this trio and how much creating, and having an outlet to record and release, actually does. They have not one, not two, but four Eps, nine singles and a full-length, Late Start, to stream for free. I would implore everybody who goes to heavier shows or has an interest in challenging, well-performed music to get familiar with Late Start in advance of the band’s next performance. These are not the types of songs that you can hear once and “get,” these are tracks to dig into, pick apart and question what you know about what works.
Made up of bassist Sam Rich and guitarist Kevin McPhee (who share vocal duties) as well as drummer Derek Geirhan — the anchor for every single one of these songs, doing something either far more complicated than, or just as complicated as, the parts sound — there is a chemistry and trust between the members that is all too rare. Nothing suggests that this is one person’s vision, or that somebody is playing for the benefit of somebody else. There is an equal respect heard in the playing and writing, and seen on stage, that lets you know that these guys are working together to make the most brutally amazing music that they can, which, if they’re lucky, will happen to meet their insanely high, self-inflicted standards.
If you can make it through opener “No Mistakes,” you’ll get the idea. False endings, bizarre delivery and advanced, unique guitar-work if you’re able to pick it out amongst all the humming distortion and testosterone. “Well Put” pays off with more immediacy rhythmically and less comprehension from a mixing standpoint; still, it’s hard to deny that these dudes know what they want to be creating — beautiful, jaw-dropping moments shoulder-to-shoulder with gross dissonant chords and grunted vocalizations. “Circle the Block” tries on a comparatively straight-forward Constantines vibe, further exemplifying the point that this has nothing to do with the listener and everything to do with the creative whim the trio happen to be on.
“Lifer” and “Throwing Cans at the TV” hit hard with their aggression but each also features hooks that are difficult, if not impossible, not to sing along to. Finally, two-thirds of the way through the record, you reach “Get Paid,” which is as close as you can get to an affirmation that what you are listening to is really as dynamite as promised. The beat is off the wall, the vocals are a whole lot of atonal screaming, but there is an undeniable melody and power crawling through it. When the beat flips for almost 30 seconds halfway through, it is mind-melting, that is, if you can even start to wrap your head around what you’re hearing.
There are bands that will give you want you want, there are bands that will entertain you and make you feel like you got your money’s worth, and there are bands who don’t give a flying fuck about you and create the music that they want to because it doesn’t exist yet. Bully Mammoth are the latter and rather than being subjected to these weirdos whom you are likely to misunderstand, dig in, get acquainted, and look forward to checking them out the next time you get a chance. You won’t regret it. Or, you will, but, you should?
Bully Mammoth play Central Gallery, Bangor on April 30 w/ Flooding Panama, Superorder and two other acts.
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