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MOKOMOKAI: "Poison Whiptail" Review

By: Tony Rachtman

Mokomokai - Poison Whiptail (2017)

The year is 2017, and metal music seems to find itself in an interesting position. While metal continues to remain relevant and retain a strong audience, fans seem less and less interested with copycat, cookie-cutter bands. Mokomokai, of Peterborough, Ontario, signals such a change, much to the joy of many fans like myself.

Let us go back a decade, where YouTube was still relatively new and metal had begun to resurface as a serious musical force. An entire generation of curious youngsters, hungry for something different, used this new platform to discover long-forgotten albums and bands, sparking a new interest and even rekindling the careers and reputations of many bands that dominated the 80’s and 90’s. Naturally, legions of young musicians seeking to capture that same “retro” vibe would follow. During this period of resurgence, we saw waves of enthusiastic young musicians and fans bringing back the bullet belts, battle jackets, and high top sneakers. Demos of poorly recorded Venom and Slayer worship filled the musical section of MySpace (Remember MySpace?) and metal was now back, a mere decade after many had deemed it all but dead in the wake of the fat and happy 1990’s. The “Neo-Thrash” era of metal was spawned, creating new fans and igniting the careers of bands that rode the tidal wave along with it (Think Municipal Waste, Havok, and Warbringer) to a larger audience that the genre had never seen before thanks to the Internet.

Fast forward to 2017.

While thrash metal and the many other forms of extreme metal remain quite popular, the passion tends to lie with the veterans of the music scene. When we look at what draws fans to bands that are just starting out, the general consensus seems to be that today’s fans want bands that use their influences to create their own sound and carve out a more unique identity for themselves. Too often in years past would we see groups try and pretend they are living in a time period that was before they were even born; to emulate their musical influences rather than build upon them. Bands like Ghost, 3Teeth, Power Trip are just some names to find themselves climbing the ladder of notoriety based solely on the fact they offer something slightly different from formulaic heavy music while still giving fans like me what we are looking for. Mokomokai would seem to be a bedfellow with this belief, and a band like them could not have picked a better time to release a debut album.

After my first listen to "Poison Whiptail", one can hear a band that unapologetically blends its influences in a natural, organic fashion, and makes it work. My seasoned ears could hear numerous characteristics of other bands flowing through freely. Be it the fuzzy stoner grooves of Fu Manchu, the Halford-esque vocals of singer John Ellis, the sludginess of Black Sabbath, or the epic build-ups of classic Metallica, Mokomokai rocks through every past decade of heavy music as only a band in 2017 should. A welcome addition to the album, a rendition of Deep Purple’s classic “Bloodsucker”, fits right in with the classic vibe of their music and doesn’t seem out of place in any way, keeping with the rhythm of the record. 'Poision Whiptail' and 'Heavy Metal Sky' bring to mind earlier Judas Priest, with the Sabbath-meets-proto-speed metal vibe in those tracks, along with 'Diesel Wild Stallion' driving the record into a unique Desert Rock-meets-NWOBHM rhythm. One particular band that Mokomokai brings to mind especially is the classic american doom band Trouble, with their shrieking vocals and doom metal fuzz making a classic impact back in the 1980’s, and is no more apparent than on the album’s closing track 'Mountains of Madness'.

The metal scene is primed for a band like Mokomokai, who seems to blend many of our favourite metal elements into one slick package. Singer John Ellis is the type of vocalist bands search high and low for, and paired with the rest of the band’s rock-solid songwriting and musical chops, Mokomokai has only brighter days ahead of them.

Mokomokai - "Poison Whiptail" track-list:

1. Poison Whiptail
2. Diesel Wild Stallion
3. Walkin Boss
4. Bloodsucker
5. Heavy Metal Sky
6. Fast Enough to Kill

7. Mountains of Madness

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