Mutoid Man – ‘War Moans’

By James Lee

In the entire history of hardcore, it’s doubtful there are two bands whose members have collaborated more frequently, and with such consistently stunning results, than Converge and Cave In. For those keeping count, the list of Verge-In projects thus far looks a little like this: Kid Kilowatt, Old Man Gloom, Wear Your Wounds, Doomriders, not to mention Stephen Brodsky’s time actually playing in Converge (a team-up that was brought back to life on last year’s monumental ‘Blood Moon’ tour), and the brief tenure Ben Koller enjoyed filling the temporarily vacant drum stool for Cave In. It was during this period that the band wrote and recorded the cassette-only EP ‘Shapeshifter/Dead Already’, a raucous and invigorating pair of songs that showed Cave In at their most jagged and inventive. This release also planted the seed between Koller and Brodsky that seven years later would finally blossom into Mutoid Man, the natural evolution of those two warped, punked-up Cave In songs.

The band’s first release, ‘Helium Head’, was recorded by just the two men, and was a breath of fresh air in every sense. Though his work in Cave In always granted Stephen Brodsky plenty of scope to create walls of incredible sounds with his guitar, ‘Helium Head’ felt like the first time his wild, progressive metal chops had ever been fully unleashed, and the results were stunning. Shortly after the EP’s release, the duo became a trio following the recruitment of bass player Nick Cageao, the resident sound engineer at legendary Brooklyn metal dive Saint Vitus. This beefed up version of Mutoid Man would release their first full-length record in the shape of 2015’s ‘Bleeder’, a natural evolution of the EP’s sound that turns everything up to 11 – the time signatures were wackier, the riffs catchier, and Brodsky’s soaring vocals given even more room to shine. Now in 2017, Mutoid Man have returned with their second album, ‘War Moans’, and not only have they yet again managed to up the stakes in terms of pure rock fury, this time there’s a breadth to the band’s sound that was only hinted at on ‘Bleeder’.

From the opening riffs of ‘Melt Your Mind’ and throughout the record, ‘War Moans’ sees Mutoid Man sounding the most ‘metal’ they ever have. Brodsky is an outspoken fan of old-school thrash, and on this record that love bleeds out of every pore, particularly on the scorching penultimate track ‘Open Flame’, and the headbang anthem that is the title track, on which Megadeth legend Marty Friedman appears for a guest solo that positively rips from the speakers. The wildly progressive punk of the band’s first two records is still very much in the mix, but this time there’s an undeniably harder edge to the riffs, perfectly evidenced on the face-melting ‘Micro Aggression’.

That hardened edge is softened somewhat by Brodsky’s endearingly tongue-in-cheek lyrics, though. The album’s lead single, ‘Kiss Of Death’ is a stomping riff storm that manages to pull off some potentially juvenile bait-and-switch word play in its chorus with aplomb. Maybe even more pertinently, it takes a brave and talented man to pen a song about impregnating the Devil’s daughter and it not reek of cheese, as is the case with ‘Date With The Devil’. Everything about Mutoid Man, from their lyrics to their trippy artwork, to their general disregard for things like conventional song structures, is imbued with an infectious feeling of joy and it’s this attitude that allows them to get away with such audacious, and borderline ridiculous, ideas.

Where ‘War Moans’ really separates itself from its predecessors is in a pair of tracks towards the back end of its playing time. ‘Wreck And Survive’ shines in no small part to a reliably eerie guest spot from fellow ‘Blood Moon’ collaborator Chelsea Wolfe, whose ethereal vocals add an air of seductive menace to what is already a solid workout for the boys, Brodsky in particular treating the song as a blank canvas for some of his more inventive use of effects pedals. Album closer ‘Bandages’ is an even bigger surprise, a glimmering and genuinely moving anthem that is the most overtly like Cave In the band have ever sounded. Brodsky’s work is beautiful here, his aching voice matched only by the shimmering guitars, augmented in their most exhilarating moments by perfectly pitched harmonics. The song builds into an epic crescendo that ends ‘War Moans’ on a very different note than could have been imagined at the blazing start, but an ending that fits perfectly nonetheless.

Though ‘Helium Head’ and ‘Bleeder’ remain exhilarating listens, with ‘War Moans’, Mutoid Man have crafted their first completely essential album. Everything from Kurt Ballou’s typically pristine production to the interstellar drum work of Ben Koller is perfect, and as is always the case when Stephen Brodsky is involved, the actual songwriting shines brighter than any of its components. This album is heavy, fun, thoughtful, head-scratchingly complex and also completely accessible from the first listen to the hundredth. And believe us, when (not if) you buy it, there will be a hundredth listen.


Three more album reviews for you

Kris Barras Band - ‘Halo Effect’

Dead Pony – ‘IGNORE THIS’