FUCKING HELL! Mutoid Man?! Helium Head?! Let me start by saying fans of ‘heavy’ will already know tonnes about this band, without ever having heard them. Drummer Ben Koller has been hammering your brain out in hardcore heroes Converge, producing classics like Jane Doe and more recently Axe to Fall and their bruising split with my fellow Brummies Napalm Death (he recently did his best crust-punk blasting on the All Pigs Must Die ripper Nothing Violates this Nature and was part of the underground psych-punk cohort Acid Tiger – to name a few that I know of, there are probably heaps more.)
Koller’s partner-in-crime on Helium Head is Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky. Brodsky and his band have been innovating and pushing the boundaries of metal for some time now, a kind of post-hardcore Dr. Frankenstein. Each one of the five LP’s Cave In have released have not only improved in quality and concept, but they prove that consistency isn’t dead – there is life in the old dog ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ yet.
Cave In is where Koller and Brodsky’s paths crossed. Koller played with the band during that dodgy phase where they kept fans guessing whether they were even a band or not. Remember that? Anywho, I’m here to talk about kick-ass party thrash project Mutoid Man. It’s named after a practically unkillable Boss from arcade classic ‘Smash TV’, a kind of bootleg video-game of Schwarzenegger cinematic vehicle ‘The Running Man’. Far out.
Let me start by saying that I think lazy music writers just throw comparisons at the records they’re listening to, and see what sticks. Good music writers will tell you why something sounds like something else, and what context and extra layer of intrigue can be brought to records by acknowledging the chain of musical influence a particular album falls into. But fuck it, this record reminds me of so many of good bands that it’s practically essential for me to knock out comparison after comparison – you listen to the record and tell me if you don’t hear the same things.
I advise you to grab a beer (if that’s your thing) and get ready for Mutoid Man – opener ‘Gnarcissist’ is a gnarly, fuzzed out shredder that’s got an undeniably pleasant classic rock feel that takes them slightly away from the paths they’ve been beating with Converge or Cave In and more towards Every Time I Die’s best work (does that mean anything?…) ‘I’m never gonna fall in love with myself’ goes the lyrics & you’ll be pleased to know, fuzzheads, they’re caked in grimy distortion.
Next cut ‘Scavengers’ ups the ante into throws more horns in the air, this time coming at it in a Dillinger-math-diddley-diddley angle. It’s grinding rhythm a-go-go, the relentless kind of BPM-pushing smasher you’d expect to see on Pusmort from 1986. (Record collectors beware – there are flavours and hints of all your favourite bruisers on this 7-track record.)
‘Scrape The Walls’ lets Brodsky’s vocals shine – and what a vocalist. His throat-shredding antics leave their mark, especially if you’re brave enough to pump it through your headphones. His performance on ‘Scrape The Walls’ is electric, he wails and hollers and hoots with gusto.
If thrashers’ borrowing from NWOBHM was a problem for you in 1983, it’ll still be a problem on track 4 – ‘Friday The 13/8’ (no, I don’t get that either.) It borrows doom spices and sludge seasoning for its hardcore-metalcore-thrashcore stew. Darker in tone than any track save ‘Lost In The Hive’, it acts as a deliberate sandbag before wrenching your ears back out for some more THRASH!!
Shortest cut ‘Sacriledge’ is a thrasher that you could easily imagine fans of crossover acts like DRI or Municipal Waste digging – you can imagine them playing the same keg party playing Suicidal Tendencies covers. Koller’s drumming really hits 11 here (to be quite honest, it doesn’t go any less than 10 on the Charlie-Benante-Relentless-Drummer scale throughout), his signature clout and clomp makes me jealous (and knackered )– air-drumming never seemed this fucking tiring.
On ‘Lost In The Hive’, things get a bit dark. They get a little uncomfortable (read: tasty). I want to use the hallowed ‘g’ word, but Carcass fans might string me up. It’s the ‘heaviest’ track on the record by some way, seemingly completely out of place into you realise that it’s actually BEN FUCKING KOLLER drumming, and by now he can do exactly as he pleases, grindcore timbres included. Brodsky screams ‘SWARMING!’ into his fug of mirth/vocal filter and you believe him. You get it. (As a little sidenote, does anybody know the underground classic gore-thrash zombie band Send More Paramedics?)
Final cut ‘Manimals’ is hands-down, beyond all doubt, my favourite track on the record. It’s everything Mastodon were trying to do with ‘Curl Of The Burl’, a rolling, wheezing pounder.
On the downside, my search for a the best hardcore record ever (STILL!) goes on, for now Negative Approach, Misfits and Laughing Hyenas have little to worry about (they never did, this is more of a crossover record). But I really like this 7-track EP/project, make no mistake. It appears and sounds as though they’re only doing it for a laugh, and because they can. This is no bad thing, but you gotta feel bad for Every Time I Die – this kind of music is their day-job, and Mutoid Man make it look easy.
Scribed by: Ross Horton