[sic] Magazine

Mammatus – Sparkling Waters

Fans of meteorological phenomenon (and who isn’t?) know that mammatus or mammatocumulus clouds are those that have pouches that look like large downward lumps at their base. Like all things science, this name comes from the Latin word “mamma” which means “udder” or “breast.”

What is more rock and roll than naming your band “boob clouds”?

Well, a lot of things probably. Iggy Pop‘s scream on ‘1970’. Mick Taylor‘s solo on ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?’ The Life Of Lemmy. In fact, there’s a good chance that Yanni‘s Live At The Acropolis is a little more rock and roll than “boob clouds.”

However, that didn’t stop Santa Cruz-based rock band Mammatus from just running with the name and flying high…quite literally and figuratively. While listening to any one of this band’s fun albums, you can practically hear the clouds of pot smoke floating through the room. These guys are RAWK, particularly of the 70s variety.

How to classify the sound of Mammatus? I’d say they’re a hard-psychedelic-ambient-acid-garage-prog-metal-punk band that plays a wild and abandoned form of primarily instrumental music that uses rock instrumentation to delve deeply into the prime areas of our sub-conscious minds. They use unhinged solos and flashy drum beats to pin-point the foibles of humanity and to hold them up like a mirror and let us know that we are those who have failed.


So much for that pretentious babble. The more down-to-earth description is that of a band whose taste runs in all realms of rock as long as it’s hard, long, and lets the guitarist play lots of solos with hair flying all over the place. This gives kids the chance to worship at the altar of Brian May-hued guitar tone in the far-flung year of 2016. That’s pretty cool.

Sparkling Waters is their 2015 release and their most ambitious yet. Four songs: each over 15 minutes. These tales come from no topographic ocean, but that’s just fine. Dynamics are everywhere, but there is a more static evolution that includes quiet keyboards and repeating ambient guitar lines. This is a departure from their previous raw, RAWK power style, which is mostly (but not entirely) replaced with icky, icky, restraint.

The genius of this album is the way that it sounds like a thousand different bands, but not entirely like just one. Throwback bands of this type often take this approach to offer a listening experience that is diverse and a bit archaic. You’ll swear you’ve heard it all before, but they nip bits here and there from anyone who mattered in the pre-punk 70s and slam it into their own 80s and beyond taste.

Example: the main guitar part in the 20-minute ‘Sparking Waters Part 1’ sounds a bit like Alex Lifeson‘s guitar part in ‘Xanadu’, but slowed down and stretched out. Keyboard choirs pop up, but they aren’t too silly. Slowly it all builds up into a “let’s play all the notesSteve Howe guitar solo, but without the precision.

So, if you love 70s rock bands, but wish they were all smooshed together into one megaband who sells their stuff for cheap on Bandcamp, give them a shot. That said, don’t expect this album to manipulate the direction of rock and roll. It’s mostly a throwback to harder times, and while I typically get annoyed by albums that dwell too obsessively in the past, these guys have enough raw energy to make it work.

They also throw in some modern touches, like Godspeed-esque turns to slow and overpowering crescendos that nearly match that band for raw power and emotive strength. So, while it’s quite nice and worth the money, it doesn’t quite make these guys a game-changing group.

Wait a minute: I just heard a flute. A FLUTE IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND. That gives me an idea that will change rock history.

Yours in Tull,