Ghost of the Russian Empire - The Mammoth (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Ghost of the Russian Empire

The Mammoth (2008)


Please excuse me while I turn the crank on my hype machine. Hup, hup, hup, hup…ah, there she goes.

OK. So. Texas indie rock act Ghost of the Russian Empire self-released their debut full-length The Mammoth last month, and it is fucking great. It's so great that I have to use profanity to convey its greatness. The Mammoth is muscular yet atmospheric in the vein of Pink Floyd, Mogwai and Russian Circles without any of the tediousness that sometimes accompanies such bands. It's also a must-have record for those that dig a lil' ethereality with their rock. Containing almost an hour's worth of music, the album goes through all sorts of vibes while maintaining a focused direction. It blends the spaced out stoner rock of Wish You Were Here with the cool force of Minus the Bear's Planet of Ice, although not quite as technical. Point is, this is good stuff.

Lead single "A Decade Without a Death" opens The Mammoth ominously with a few spare notes before a driving guitar part compels the band into full-on rock ‘n' roll action. The song is enshrouded in a haze; even vocalist Brandon Whitten doesn't quite come through. But the murky production makes the tune all the more enticing. Lyrically, the song has the same vaguely militaristic paranoia as one would find on your average Pink Floyd or Secret Machines track. "We will ensure / A war for every generation / And a rank for every man," Whitten intones at one point.

That's pretty much The Mammoth's modus operandi – strung/freaked/rocking out in a ghostly fashion. Acoustic guitar comes and goes, tempos change, and even the occasional country-fried slide guitar crops up, but for the most part The Mammoth is high-quality stoner rock, a phrase I kind of hate using because it belittles and stigmatizes what Ghost of the Russian Empire is trying to do. See, while I'm sure The Mammoth's reverb probably sounds incredible when you're blitzed out of your skull, those of us who don't take stimulants for listening to music can get just as much out of this record. That's because it boasts quality musicianship on every level. It's technically competent with loads of feeling and grooving to spare, and the lyrics aren't too bad either. The songs never overstay their welcome. Aside from "The White Sea," they range from three and a half to five and a half minutes long, which isn't too bad for the style.

So yeah, I guess what I'm trying to say is that Ghost of the Russian Empire's The Mammoth is one of the best records of 2008 (Fuck me for overselling it, eh?).