Mammoth Grinder: Pure Metal Immediacy

“My goal as a band is to make enough money to afford a practice space where, in the summer months, we wouldn’t have to play in our underwear.”

Chris Ulsh, singer/guitarist for Austin metal trio Mammoth Grinder, is being completely serious, what with the summer temperatures not only topping but remaining over 100 degrees for days at a time. With a stoic disposition and fly-on-the-wall demeanor, Ulsh could easily be mistaken for any other quiet 22-year old college student studying mathematics.

“I’ve been listening to metal since grade school,” he says. “As far as the new stuff, I really don’t know much about it. It just seems like the whole idea of metal has been bastardized and dumbed down over the years. I mean, now we have shit like Metalocalypse selling out clubs across the country. I just don’t understand it.”

Though the Adult Swim cartoon’s popularity has illuminated the masses on the intricate musicianship and talent needed to play metal, Ulsh’s views are not singular in their distaste, especially from the viewpoint of an underground metal band working its ass off trying to get its art to a respected position.

Metal musicians have often been pigeonholed as simpletons screaming about unimportant subjects, from the very beginnings of the genre, when bands like Black Sabbath rattled the world with an ungodly, magnificent racket. Although the stereotype has been an obstacle for some, it has also fueled the metal underground to be that much noisier and that much more unstoppable; Mammoth Grinder, in its infancy, is the perfect example of the power of this movement and its unstoppable contributions to music, both new and old.

Initially released on vinyl via Austin’s Cyclopean Records with a CD version released by Relapse Records in early 2010, Extinction of Humanity, the band’s second full-length, brings the simple brutality of death metal with a hardcore rawness that is heard less and less in this age of digital recording programs, overdubs, and pitch correctors.

With a sprightly leap over the banister of the porch where we are enjoying a pitcher of Lone Star beer, drummer Brian Boeckman joins the discussion. Boeckman and Ulsh have a long musical history together. “We met in Houston a long time ago because of our shared interest in metal,” Ulsh says. “It was inevitable that we would begin to play together and then become best friends.”

The two-piece eventually grew into the current three-piece with the addition of bassist James Hammontree. In Austin, one has to only venture outside to witness everything from impromptu tight-rope walking to a Mariachi band performing in a downtown alley for the simple pleasure of sharing music.

“In a town like this, there are shows everywhere, all the time,” Boeckman says. “The punk-rock scene is much stronger here than metal, but they really go hand in hand. There is a deep respect for each other, which isn’t always the case anywhere else.”

Armed with a strong work ethic, a DIY aesthetic, and growing support from the underground metal community, Mammoth Grinder is on the precipice of something large — and well deserved. After all, it is musicians like Ulsh and Boeckman, who care more for art and sound than fame and notoriety, that have kept the metal genre alive and relevant for generations past, present, and future.

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