By Eleni P. Austin

Mammoth WVH is the musical moniker of one-man band, Wolfgang Van Halen. The name is an homage to the early ‘70s band his dad, Edward, and his Uncle Alex created, along with David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony. A couple years later, the four-piece ignited the Sunset Strip and began ruling the rest of the world as Van Halen.

Wolfie’s dad became one of the most influential and innovative guitar players on the planet, and his mom was beloved actress, Valerie Bertinelli. From the moment he arrived in 1991, the kid displayed a hereditary musical talent. He began keeping time as a tot, so his dad bought him his own drum kit at age 10. A couple years later, at his dad’s behest, he was sitting in with the latest iteration of Van Halen. Pretty soon, he taught himself his dad’s iconic guitar solo on the VH classic, “Eruption.” By 15, he’d mastered the bass and was invited to play full-time in Van Halen when original vocalist David Lee Roth rejoined Edward and Alex on the road. Wolfie didn’t just tour with them, he also played on their final studio album, A Different Kind Of Truth. Between VH commitments, he was invited to join the band Tremonti as their touring bassist. He wound up playing on two of their records and that led to appearances on Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery’s solo albums.

Back in 2000, Ed battled tongue cancer. Despite the fact that he was declared cancer-free in 2002, by 2019 the cancer had returned to his throat and then lungs. On October 6th, 2020, surrounded by family, included his son, Valerie, and his current wife, Janie, EVH died from a stroke at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. Throughout the years, Wolfie had been working on his own solo material, and luckily his dad had heard it all and loved it. His last words to Wolfie were “I Love You.”


In late 2021, Wolfie released mammoth’s self-titled debut. Critics and fans alike embraced the album whole-heartedly. Having written all the songs, and played every lick and note of music himself, he knew the next step was to put a touring band together. Dubbed the Young Guns tour, for the next several months they co-headlined mid-size venues with up-and-comers, Dirty Honey. Returning to the studio alone, Wolfie quickly whipped up another batch of songs and hit the record button. Pithily entitled mammoth II, perhaps as a succinct homage to Van Halen’s sophomore effort, Van Halen II, this record truly hits the ground running. The opening tracks, “Right” and “Like A Pastime” detonate with deadly precision and alacrity.

The former careens out of the speakers, all jagged, jackhammer guitar riffs and throbbing bass, with a staccato fusillade of drums in hot pursuit. Wolfie’s vocals bob and weave across lyrics that tap into his reluctance to cut the cord in a toxic relationship; “Seems like it’s all coming back again, what’s my problem? Where do I begin? I don’t want to love you but I won’t have it any other way.” By the bridge, honeyed harmonies coalesce with ringing acoustic underpinnings. But the song truly achieves lift-off on the break as guitars flange and fuzz and he uncoils a scorching solo that echoes EVH’s trademark tapping pyrotechnics.

The momentum doesn’t let up on the latter. It’s pedal to the metal, as modal guitars buzz and twitch like a Cicada on steroids and caffeinated bass lines are matched by darting keys and a propulsive beat. Wolfie’s vocals feel more boyish and vulnerable as lyrics attempt to wrest control from an emotional terrorist; “Hey, beat me up like a pastime, hey, bring me up to the downside, let me down tonight, say what you feel on the inside, say what you want for last time, let me down tonight.” While his words are tentative and hesitant, he seems more sanguine when he lets the music do the talking. A bludgeoning backbeat stomps through the break, and skittery guitars ride roughshod across the sonic landscape.

The action slows for “Waiting.” Initially, the instrumentation is pared back to leapfrogging guitar licks, pliant bass and a thunky beat. This feels like a sequel of sorts to “Distance,” the trenchant tribute to his dad that closed out his debut. Wolfie’s ache is palpable on the opening verse; “I’ll be waiting for you, I’ll be waiting for you, can we just stay here awhile? Embracing this denial, while I’m waiting, I’m waiting for you, for you.” Sparkly electric notes intertwine with shimmering acoustic arpeggios as the tempo gently accelerates and lyrics quietly confide; “Just wake me up, cause I don’t want to dream too long, I don’t think I’ll ever know the way to go without you…” Sweetly defiant, he concludes “I’ll never say goodbye, don’t ever say goodbye, goodbye to me.” This tender encomium builds to a final crescendo before winding down with some quiescent acoustic notes.

It’s back to business with “Erase Me.” Rippling guitar riffs collide with economical bass lines and a Tilt-A-Whirl beat. The crisp and concise arrangement nearly camouflage the lyrics’ messy moments of angst, treachery and retribution; “You took advantage of me, you thought that I wouldn’t see, you’re like a walking disease you only prey on the weak” A rat-a-tat beat and scabrous guitars shadow the feeling of betrayal; “How could you look right at me and fucking lie through your teeth? What did you want me to be? I think we’ll never agree.” The rhythm momentarily recedes as Wolfie unleashes a spiraling guitar solo that sparks and pinwheels, circling the chorus one last time before launching a final squall of dissonance.

Having established his bona fides on his debut, Wolfie seems ready to take more chances here. The best tracks add new colors and textures to his sonic palette. Take “I’m Alright,” which builds off an anthemic ‘70s AOR groove. Slashing power chords plunky keys and roiling bass are wed a stutter-step beat. The straightforward arrangement belies Jekyll & Hyde lyrics that speed past passive-aggressive; “Sorry, so sorry, it’s kind of you to say, you just made my day/Sorry, I’m so sorry, it’s kind of you, now fuck off and back away and let me breathe.” Hints of playful cowbell fills add a dense, Blue Oyster Cult flavor, but on the break, he shreds a solo that splits the difference between molten metal and an airy, albeit muscular cluster of chords that defined Pete Townshend’s most enduring Who songs.

Then there’s “Another Celebration At The End Of The World,” which manages to straddle the line between Hard Rock and radio-friendly Pop with the same finesse Van Halen evinced in the early ‘80s. A kinetic backbeat, boomerang bass, tight, concentric keys and whiz-bang guitar riffs pack a powerful punch. 40 years ago, this song could have sandwiched nicely between A Flock Of Seagulls “I Ran” and Billy Squier’s “Lonely Is The Night.” Lyrics like “Hey baby, your life will always follow you in tow, yeah baby, you know it’s just another celebration at the end of the world,” strike a blasé pose, but then panic sets in and a course correction is in order; “We’re on the right track now, you’re every sight and sound, a kiss, a casket, and all our rights and wrongs, we’re gonna take it back somehow.” Just ahead of the break, the arrangement rears up on its haunches, ratcheting up the tension as Wolfie executes a face-melting guitar solo that snarls and spits, putting the specter of end times firmly in the rear view.

Meanwhile, “Miles Above Me” exhibits a shapeshifter energy. Marauding guitar riffs give way to sturdy bass lines and a walloping beat, before powering down to an arrangement that’s lithe and athletic. Strafing guitars ricochet across fleet harmonies. Lyrics like “Whatever you are, you’re miles above me, whatever you are I’m not enough,” display an uncharacteristic crisis of confidence. But those doubts are quickly erased with a stratospheric solo that blazes, unspooling an encyclopedic sequence of notes that rush ahead, then retreat, without ever resorting to a form of musical onanism.

Finally, “Take A Bow” is the record’s piece de resistance. Ticklish guitars partner with spatial bass, plunky piano and a jittery beat. With the synchronicity of a Swiss timepiece, all the movements alchemize. There’s a tensile urgency here that is up-ended as the arrangement downshifts, locking into a sludgy groove. Down-tuned bass and a primordial beat envelope a gradually evolving solo that moves from larval stage, to chrysalis, slowly unfurling its wings across nearly two minutes with a fluttery aplomb. The song clocks in at just under seven minutes, leaving the listener spent but satisfied.

Other interesting tracks include the caustic “Optimist,” and the record closes out with the relentless metallurgic crunch of “Better Than You.” A piledriving beat is mirrored by see-saw bass and splintery guitars that build to a stunning crescendo. Wolfie’s full-throated vocals pivot between surprisingly melodic and an anguished yowl. Tart lyrics offer a sharply worded rejoinder aimed at naysayers; “See what you say, see what you all say, shallow and hollow, we’ll be better tomorrow again.” It’s a brutally effective finish to a remarkable album.

Once again, Wolfie sings and plays every note. mammoth II confidently sidesteps the “sophomore slump,” matching honest and heartfelt lyrics to dazzling and cinematic soundscapes. There’s something kind of beautiful about this kid, (who is truly a man, but will always exude a boyish charm to those of us who have been paying attention), honoring the family tradition. He’s following in his father’s footsteps, yet forging his own distinctive path.