Mutoid Man are another band I was late to the party for. I picked up the second album War Moans from Cave In frontman Stephen Brodsky and Converge powerhouse Ben Koller somewhere around the end of 2018, a year after it was released, thanks to a small article hyping the album up. However, it wasn’t until later in 2019 when going through some deeply dark personal times that I found myself subsisting on a diet of off-beat Canadian comedy Letterkenny and Drew Kaufman and Jordan Olds’ gonzo heavy metal talk show Two Minutes to Late.
A notable fact of the latter is that Mutoid Man was the house band and in every episode, in addition to hamming it up on camera, the band would blister their way through some incredible cover versions featuring a cavalcade of musicians including an absolutely smoking version of Prince’s Purple Rain featuring John Baizley of Baroness.
This was all well and light-hearted, but the actual recordings by the band really struck a chord after I stumbled across the Live From GodCity Studio version of Bridgeburner from their 2015 full-length debut Bleeder. The driving guitars of Brodsky, the pummelling rhythms of Koller and the punishing baselines of Nick Cageao (who joined in 2013 to permanently round out the band after the two-piece released their Helium Head EP) overlaid by Brodsky’s dancing and sometimes schizophrenic vocals, were often like nothing else around with the muscular blend of technical, hard, fast and delightfully catchy raucous metal.
This was not news to anyone but me apparently, and out of the dim fog of time, War Moans with its hyperkinetic time changes, often tongue-in-cheek lyrics and ass-kicking tunes became the soundtrack to me dragging myself through the first half of 2019.
Six years later after the triumphant comeback of Cave In with Heavy Pendulum, the mutoid men are back with a follow-up simply titled Mutants. Citing logistical difficulties, the band parted ways with Cageao, but found a no-nonsense replacement in High On Fire’s Jeff Matz, which according to the vocalist, has reignited his love for the band.
The resulting ten-track album readily sits up there with some of the best work the band have produced. Mutants crackles with energy from the moment Call Of The Void screeches into view with a particularly jarring set of guitar squeals and drum taps before they launch into a heads-down chug that was partially inspired by his grief over losing Cave In bassist and friend Caleb Scofield. Awash with abrasive musical acrobatics and almost Beach Boys ‘woah-oh-oh’ melodies welded onto technical prowess that most acts would eat their arms off for, it is clear this latest chapter in the band’s history is a sugary, hyperactive adrenaline rush of the highest order.
Frozen Hearts bristles with menace and haunting lines like, ‘I don’t wanna know anything right now, cos I would probably go anywhere right now’, highlighting that they may have obnoxious and brightly covered pieces of artwork and play on a YouTube comedy show, but Mutoid Man hold a mirror up to the world and when they are not deflecting its harshness with humour, there is a brooding darkness bubbling just below the surface.
The resulting ten-track album readily sits up there with some of the best work the band have produced…
Slowing the pace for some choppy hardcore stylings, Broken Glass Ceiling batters and bruises as it refuses to settle for one groove before they can’t resist and set off on a charge with a soaring chorus, jumping from a snaking verse to a punk-infused, double bass heavy thunder.
Siren Song comes as an early highlight in the already top-quality offerings as the smokey stoner meets tech metal evolves into a swing that dazzles with catchy lyrics, and three separate earworms in the one track, deliciously crammed with biting lyrics and bombastic heavy metal panache that belies the showmanship of the band members.
Graveyard Love could almost be Mutoid Man’s version of The Ramones’ Pet Cemetery and recalls (thematically) tracks like Date With The Devil for the almost nonsense, playful lyrics before the screeching, ultra-heavy Unborn sees the band eschew some of the finesse they have and look to beat the listener into submission.
After that Siphon kicks things back off with Converge meets Dillinger Escape Plan moments before they can’t help themselves and find a way to add off-kilter vocal harmonies and bull roars into a track that spans barely three minutes. Demons, by contrast, is a pop-flavoured simple refrain (if you ignore the bat shit, heavy as fuck side tangents) that will have you dancing and hand clapping along to its hooks one minute and whirlwind head banging the next.
Memory Hole suffers from being a more straightforward (for Mutoid Man) track that is positioned just before the finale. Robust and brimming with changes and top-class musicianship, it has the ignominy of being just a good track among a treasure chest of gold. The pick of the bunch for me being the closer, Setting Sun, which has just about everything I want from the band.
As the longest offering on the album, this is as close to epic as they come, and features that Melt Your Mind speed frenzy, heavy but reigned back by melodies that pop bands would kill for, cerebral subtleties in the cascading chorus and a feeling of leaving you wanting more that literally has me skipping back to the start every single time.
Mutoid Man’s third album simply delivers. I’ve been back and forth on this since its release and maybe the high points on Mutants aren’t quite as high as War Moans (there is nothing like Bandages for example), but overall, it feels more consistent. Koller is a legend, Brodsky has the best right hand in the business on his day, Matz has solidified the band once more and they have lost none of that raw power or off-the-wall humour. They’ve crafted their own universe and frankly, if I could book a one-way trip I would.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden