Written by: Big Adz
Back in Autumn of 2017, I had a bad day: I was working in a crappy, soul-crushingly dull role that I desperately wanted to get out of for the sake of my own mental well-being, and had just finished up yet another day of this drudgery. Sullen and verging on despondent, I walked out of the building that housed me during said soul crushing, onto the street and hit play on the commute home playlist I had put together during my lunch time reprieve.
The first track was a recommendation from a friend, a song called "Kiss of Death" by a band called Mutoid Man. Within a minute of that fateful finger twitch upon my phone, the weight of the capitalistic fuckery I had just endured lifted from my shoulders like an ascendant non-denominational messiah and my face lit up in the way that one’s does when they’ve just heard the first bit of music from their soon-to-be new favourite band.
It is now Winter of 2023 (in the southern hemisphere). I’m still working a crappy, soul-crushing role that I am less desperate to get out of for the sake of my well-being, and I’m smiling that same smile I did in 2017 having listened to the latest release from the now well-established favourite band of mine, the album with a title-so-obvious-it’s-a-wonder-they-never-used-it-prior-to-now: Mutants.
Being a “supergroup” of musicians who play in other notable bands with their own distinct sounds (singer/guitarist Steve Brodsky is in Cave In/Old Man Gloom, drummer Ben Koller plays in Converge/All Pigs Must Die/other supergroup Killer Be Killed) can have its trappings: sometimes the band sounds exactly like the sum of its parts without adding anything new to the proceedings, other times the styles don’t mesh at all. When original bassist Nick Cageao exited the band and was replaced by High on Fire bassist Jeff Matz in 2021, these trappings had the potential to be exacerbated. Thankfully though, Jeff’s nimble yet powerful approach to the bass meshes with Ben’s caveman on speed bashing and Steve’s propensity for combining high gain tones with ear candy effects flawlessly. Add in the final layer of Brodsky’s vocals, which are distinctive and genuine whether he’s screaming like a banshee or dispelling the blues from himself and straight into your soul via his dulcet singing, and the band enjoys a signature sound that is augmented by the new blood rather than stymied by it in any way.
That signature sound is as indefinable as it is compelling: not surprisingly given the backgrounds of the players, there’s a strong element of 00’s metalcore forming the backbone in a potpourri of styles that range from bludgeoning hardcore, herpes-level catchy pop punk, mind-bending prog metal and the stankenest doom this side of Iommi, that comes out of the melting pot gleaming with a sense of triumphant artistry that is both innovative and fresh, while retaining accessible familiarity.
Opening track and lead single, "Call of the Void," stays true to the formula Mutoid Man established with 2017’s War Moans: big main riff with plenty of effect layers to it, a pummelling drum line that’s carrying an uplifting message of hope and inspiration before coming to the oft-neglected but always beloved woah-oh singalong chorus, and coalescing into a controlled chaos outro for that added stank to the smile you’ll be wearing by the end. Everything that makes the band so good is distilled into this track, making the perfect stepping stone for new fans as well as welcoming back old fans coming for more.
The pace doesn’t let up from there; second track "Frozen Hearts" teases you with a bit of doom before Koller lets rip with blasts and rolls to get you moving, followed by Brodsky’s sombre crooning about disassociation. All of this happens in the first 30 seconds of the song, and the whole thing is over within three minutes, which leaves a lot to unpack about how day to day life in this evil timeline future affects us mentally. Not that you have enough time to unpack anything, as the next track "Broken Glass Ceiling" is close behind with a squealing opening riff, which in turn leads us to a triumphant chorus extolling jubilant determination, segueing into an outro with the kind of furious joy over breaking glass that Fred Durst would take notes about.
The rest of the album maintains a frenetic yet sublimely controlled energy as it alternates from groovy mid-tempo ear worms ("Siren Song"), sludge-core pummeling with a sugary sweet veneer ("Unborn," "Siphon,") a break-neck thrash piece with tongue-in-cheek lyrical themes ("Graveyard Love"), unabashed displays of musical superiority that is heavy on the playful without being snobby ("Memory Hole,") and good old-fashioned riff-fueled catharsis ("Demons").
Given the litany of occurrences that caused a six year delay between albums for the band (Ben breaking his arm, Steve putting out a new Cave In album, and, oh yeah, the fucking pandemic), this album carries a theme of growth and evolution that was hard won battling through momentous times, without having lost the sense of fun that comes from getting in a room together with good buds and making music together. It is this overall sense of levity coupled with unique and masterful song crafting that separates Mutoid Man not just from the sum of its parts, but from their contemporaries.
Mutoid Man - Mutants was released July 28th, 2023 via Sargent House. Find it here!
About the Author: Find Big Adz on Twitter!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.