By Michael Popke
InsideOut Music (41212 IOMCD 061)
No two Beardfish albums sound alike. While the Swedish progressive band’s fifth album, “Destined Solitaire,” ran the musical gamut from Phish to the Flower Kings to Frank Zappa, “Mammoth” is ultimately more listenable than its challenging predecessor.
This thing still takes several spins to sink in, with the fuzzy, dense opener, “The Platform,” reflective of the seven-song album’s title — which band members say stemmed from watching old cartoons from the Eighties with their kids. The retro vibe continues, as “Mammoth” invokes Yes on “Akakabotu” and at least a half-dozen other vintage prog bands throughout, all while still boldly stomping forward in a never-ending effort to define the enigmatic Beardfish sound.
That’s no easy task: The 15-minute sax-savvy jazz-rock behemoth “And the Stone Said: If I Could Speak” contrasts sharply with the folk flair of “Tightrope” and the metallic Wolfmother-meets-Savatage jaggedness of “Green Waves” (featuring Rikard Sjöblom’s uncharacteristically throaty vocals and chugging guitar riffs). Most out of place here is the pretty solo-piano piece “Inside/Outside,” which clocks in at less than two minutes but provides a welcome respite from the rest of the album’s intensity.