Mahogany Head Grenade is an odd name. I haven’t a clue what it means, but that doesn’t make the music this Dallas-based trio has written any less worthwhile. Having read it called “home grown instraMETAL for your head” made me a bit cautious. Instrumental music is quite difficult to write and play in such a way that maintains my interest. I find that without the variety of a voice and the connection one can get from the lyrics that are paired with a composition, it is really easy for the music to become a bit too full of itself. Luckily, the debut EP, Return To The Point of Departure, is a journey into the realm of grooving riffs and uniquely shaped melodies that keep it from becoming victim to the pitfalls that so many other instrumental albums face.
Instrumental works like this often fall prey to poorly designed songs, if you can even call them songs. Great tracks tend to have strong melodious hooks that catch the audiences’ attention and recur to give the listener a sense of continuity. Tunes that lack vocals have a tendency to ignore this and become a pallet for totally random soloing that doesn’t seem to tie into any particular theme. That’s their problem, especially if it’s not a singable solo; not everyone can be Journey’s Neal Schon after all. Mahogany Head Grenade realize this, taking time to create gripping motifs that are separated with heavy riffs which are just as infectious. Adding to the character of the songs, such as on the opening title track, soundbytes have been included – in this case, from the 1956 radio show X Minus One – to satisfy those listeners who may be apprehensive about a half hour of music that features more guitar playing than words. These two aspects help make the EP hugely enjoyable and adds a little mystique.
The band members – which include guitarist Dan Hyer, drummer Mike Pritchett, and bassist James Falcon – are no amateurs to the music scene, but have found a pleasant home here. They realize that a power trio has to have just that: POWER! None of these guys slouch on this release. Hyer burns through his fretboard, Falcon has a forcefully gargantuan bass presence, and Pritchett knows just when to keep a basic back beat and when to rhythmically explore. One needs simply listen to the powerhouse track “Etude War Machine” to appreciate the energy that three men can evoke. But their killer tone also lays in the hands of their producer and engineer, Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah), and mastering wizard Maor Appelbaum (Halford, Sepultura), who we must thank for helping the guys come across the speakers as they’ve done.
I had no idea what to expect when I began listening to this release. However, from the mellow, soundbyte-laden mid-point in “Trouble For Trouble” to the techno-beat intro of “Etude War Machine,” this EP has not only kept my attention, but it’s kept me rockin’ as well! The phrasing is uniquely refreshing, making me think of Buckethead at times, and the instruments work together instead of getting in each others’ way. While the songs do seem to be guitar-driven, the bass gets a chance to take center stage on occasion; something that I’d like to see more of in the future. Return To The Point Of Departure runs the gamut from relaxing to intense – even uplifting – and is a great launching point for Mahogany Head Grenade.