Metal is a genre founded upon escapism. Its themes—while often rooted in something more tangible or universal—often tend toward the fantastic or even the absurd. The simple act of even naming a metal band is one that lends itself to evoking great hyperbole—whether or not Austin’s Mammoth Grinder considered evoking maximum destruction by choosing the name they did, it’s hard not to picture some grotesque contraption built to liquefy prehistoric beasts. It’s just one small signal to the listener that what they’re in for is something brutal and badass. And make no mistake—Mammoth Grinder’s Cosmic Crypt is both brutal and badass.
Comprising members of Power Trip and Relapse labelmates Iron Reagan, Mammoth Grinder is cut from a similar cloth as each band’s strain of rowdy and furious thrash metal. Yet on Cosmic Crypt, Mammoth Grinder are a bit dirtier, a bit nastier, and more rooted in the filth and ferocity of old-school death metal. Theirs is a sound that carries equal parts Autopsy and Anthrax in its gallop, rhythmically taut but caked in putrid grime. There’s a bit of pomp and circumstance before Mammoth Grinder let that venom spew from their gates, the opening moments of “Grimmenstein” (great name) ringing with ominous bells before Chris Ulsh lets loose with the tremolo-picking. From there Cosmic Crypt becomes one carnival ride of high-speed death metal stunts after another, the thrashy power chord assault of “Servant of the Most High” careening into the old-school mosh pit mayhem of “Blazing Burst,” and the twisted churn of “Divine Loss” plummeting into the manic stomp of “Molotov.”
On highlights such as “Superior Firepower,” there’s a rollicking sensibility that shows the band’s sense of fun and penchant for thrills—in fact most of the albums tracks do. And though there’s an impressive dynamic at play—the band frequently stopping on a dime to either double their tempo or cut it in half—what comes through strongest on Cosmic Crypt is the speed, volume and power. For whatever ungodly contraption their name evokes, Mammoth Grinder for more than a decade have been at their best when operating as a blunt object. Their roaring, rancid death metal riffs will never mistaken for Gorguts’ cubist death metal, but they also satisfy a more immediate need. Perhaps this is escapism, but Mammoth Grinder offers no easy escape. This is death metal that claws at the viscera and never lets up.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.