Finns Steel Mammoth have lain dormant for over half a decade, whilst their prime mover, the mercurial Jussi Lehtisalo busied himself with a myriad of other projects. Now they are back, with a new album, Atomic Oblivion – and everything is pretty much as weird as you’d expect.
Despite identifying themselves with the ‘New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal’, they don’t really sound anything like that appellation might suggest. Punk and psyche rock are at least as important to the Steel Mammoth template as metal, the resultant noise being gloriously cacophonous but not necessarily highly ferrous in content.
If there’s one metallic influence that shines through it is, surprisingly, latterday Darkthrone. Clearing of Frost, for instance, is heavily redolent of Circle the Wagons. Elsewhere Armageddon Speed is quite superb, right down to the classic Nik Turner-era Hawkwind vibe, but the overwheening, clattering feeling is that of a slightly under rehearsed European garage collective taking on the early back catalogue of Motörhead.
That’s a bit flippant, of course; Steel Mammoth are clearly all extremely viable as recording musicians, but the studied ‘tight but loose’ air they successfully transmit does give their songs a certain ragged glory to be sure. Shit Testament is an ear-gouging and thorough working over for the soul, as is the similarly robust Gimme Gimme Nothing.
Shadow Sanctuary is possibly the most ‘normal’ metal song in evidence, it’s chunky opening riff causing a brief Adrian Smith hallucination, whilst the closing title track is also solidly riff-based with little or no more psychedlic influences coming into play.
Lehtisalo is a maverick, a man for whom the general mundanity of the record industry is an irrelevance. It’s great to hear someone making music for the sheer unalloyed pleasure it clearly gives, rather than chasing the tail of whatever happens to be the tiresome flavour of the month. That makes Atomic Oblivion something of an acquired taste, but it’s certainly something you should consider looking into if the left field is where your tastes lie.
Atomic Oblivion is out now on Ektro Records.