When the first single “Distance” came out, we were listening to Eddie Van Halen’s son. But after experiencing the following singles and now the full record we can agree that we listened to Wolfgang Van Halen‘s work. First of all, most of the songs were composed and recorded between 2013 and 2015, but only lately he had the time and energy to make it work as a full album. Like one of his idols, the one and only Dave Grohl, the multi-instrumentalist was strongly inspired by the Foo Fighters‘ debut, so all the instruments you are hearing on 14 tracks were totally performed by Van Halen.
The first song is called “Mr Ed“, and the name is a musical reference because of some guitar harmonics he saw his dad doing once. It is already a pretty solid song with an interesting work of drums and bass. The backing vocals are already a trademark of “Mammoth WVH” so you’ll be getting tons of those chorus with great lines. “Horribly Right” and “Epiphany” are songs that you can already get some of Van Halen’s influences as Foo Fighters and Alter Bridge. I can also get some Nickelback vibes, but that’s the thing since he’s 30 years old. Those bands were on every radio and arena when he was a teenager and they definitely inspired him, which is great!
If it wasn’t enough being a tremendous instrumentalist his voice is so delicate and angry when necessary, and some of this soft side is very exposed on “Resolve” with some pretty falsettos.
At this point most of the lyrics can be resumed as desillussional or unfinished love relationships so “You’ll Be The One” is another example, lyrically speaking, but fortunately it brings more than just nice vocals but a really nice guitar solo. I have to say that Van Halen understands perfectly when a song needs one so here’s something that will give us some ’90s vibe. The almost self-titled track “Mammoth” has positive and hopeful lyrics, and we can see how important was the work of producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette. Every beat and line is so well captured, a nice delight to ears.
I wouldn’t say that “Circles” is a filler but it came to break the sequence of fast riffs and shows some vocals and acoustic guitars working quite well. The experience of playing with Mark Tremonti had its result as can clearly be seen on “The Big Picture“. Strong, solid and satisfactory!
Many singles came out before the full album release, and when I listened to “Think It Over” and “You’re To Blame” (what a solo) for the first time I smiled. For me, those couple of songs are the best moment of this full length. You can see Van Halen’s influences, even from his dad, but I believe that here we can proudly see Van Halen doing what he knows best: amazing music! Catchy, beautiful and opening his heart.
“Feel” and “Stone” are other nice examples of everything we’ve seen until now, although the second one ends with a vibe of guitars and voice emulating some grunge.
There’s still one more song but my review so far is that if you don’t say it to anyone, the blind listener will think it was played by a full band and that’s a huge compliment. Van Halen’s play is very mature, professional and he knows how to work for the music, not the opposite. Maybe 14 songs were too much. Ten would be a perfect tracklist to avoid those kind of similar tunes but I get what he did just releasing this asap to finish the new and upcoming material that he has been working on as announced.
To finish, “Distance” is like a sad farewell not only because of the sad circumstances we met this masterpiece but because we are seeing this silent change of seasons. The 2000s wasn’t kind to the Van Halen brothers but now we can keep associating the last name to quality once again from their revolution in the last century until the skillful new days of Wolfgang Van Halen and his solo project. So the bittersweet is that if we had Eddie Van Halen still alive I’m not sure when we could have the chance to see these songs because Wolfie was a son trying to enjoy his dad before he was an artist. If there’s a positive result, here’s the beauty of art, he’ll help more people now than he can count through his fresh new album.
“Mammoth WVH” is totally recommended for fans of alternative rock. Don’t expect anything similar with the last Van Halen album or something else from his father. If you want to give it a try, open your mind, heart and enjoy a sequence of musical feelings.