By: Tim LaVoie
This February 27, Austin, Texas’ death metal juggernaut Mammoth Grinder will bring their ferocious brand of mayhem to The Rock Room in Polish Hill. Supporting their powerful, boundary-pushing new album, Cosmic Crypt, (Relapse Records), their set is sure to pummel and impress. Coming four years after Mammoth Grinder’s last album, Cosmic Crypt finds the band a it’s most chaotic and intense, without sacrificing any of the razor sharp song-writing they’ve displayed since forming in 2006.
Frontman Chris Ulsh is a busy man. He plays various instruments in multiple bands, including fast-rising thrash metal beacon, Power Trip, and punk bands the Impalers and Vaaska. Power Trip will headline a show at Spirit Hall in Lawrenceville this May, but it’s Ulsh’s first stop in Pittsburgh this year with Mammoth Grinder that will pave the way for an incredible year for heavy music in the city.
Chris kindly gave Bold some of his time as he prepped for Cosmic Crypt’s release (since released on January 26) and Mammoth Grinder’s 22-date headlining tour.
Bold Pittsburgh: Congratulations on signing with Relapse. They’ve put out so many of the best metal records of the last decade and seem to keep widening their reach. How did it all come together and how do you see Mammoth Grinder fitting in with the label?
Chris Ulsh: They released a CD of one of our first LPs in 2009. Mark [Bronzino] and Ryan [Parrish] worked with them in a larger capacity through the Iron Reagan album as well. They’ve been a great home for death metal and made us feel very at home with our first proper release on the label.
BP: You guys all have other musical projects, what’s that balance been like? Did something spark a shift to prioritize Mammoth Grinder in 2018?
CU: We actually finished the LP in January of 2017 and have been waiting since then to all be in the same place at the same time so we could tour on the record. February 2018 was our first opportunity to do some hard touring.
BP: Listing to the 3 songs released early from Cosmic Crypt, it’s clear you are ratcheting up the intensity on the new record - “Blazing Burst” somehow sounds both heavier and faster than prior releases. Did you have any particular sound in mind writing for the new record or has the band’s sound always progressed naturally?
CU: Yeah, we wanted this record to be more boneheaded with some extremely irresponsible riffs. The songwriting is more stripped down and our songs are shorter than the last few records, which I think makes them better for playing live.
BP: Was writing and recording Cosmic Crypt any different knowing that this album will be unleashed onto a much larger audience than Underworlds (2013, 20 Buck Spin)?
CU: I had been demoing stuff for a couple years and sending them to Mark and Ryan for their input. We had everything finished to a point where we could practice on our own until we met up before the recording session where we practiced for 3 days and then cut most of it live except for solos and vocals.
BP: Lyrically, you deal with lots of death and darkness, but there’s also a constant theme of cutting loose from technology, work, or whatever has you in a grip - I’m thinking of “Barricades” and “Cogs in the Machine.” What’s the inspiration for these pieces? What can listeners expect thematically on Cosmic Crypt?
CU: Those songs were a little bit more political and were based on whatever I was doing or feeling at the time, whereas the stuff on the new record isn’t totally based in reality.
BP: Specific scenes seem to be fading a bit as everyone has access to all kinds of music 24/7, but there’s always been so much exciting heavy music coming from Texas. Is there a particular reason for this, or is it just one of those things best left unexplained?
CU: I think scenes further away from places like California or New York are a little bit more geographically challenged in terms of the amount of music that comes through there. Not that any scene is better or worse, but I think it’s a lot harder to get out in the world and make a name for yourself being from somewhere like Texas or the midwest etc.
BP: What are expectations the band has for this tour and this album cycle?
CU: Selling out the Garden.