LIVE: Mutoid Man / Palm Reader / Olten / Closet Disco Queen @ Underworld, London

By Dave Bull

In an everyday office job variety can come in all shapes and sizes. You could eat out for lunch today, sharpen your pencils or photocopy your bum cheeks again. For bands, variety has been spawning a new breed of creation – the now regularly referenced ‘supergroup’.

Mutoid Man are the resulting equation of Converge’s drummer Ben Koller, Cave In frontman Steve Brodsky and new recruit Nick Cagaeo on bass duties and variety was certainly on the promoters lips as the line-up tonight provided a broad display of musical talent from the technical pedal medley of Closet Disco Queen to the sublime licks and onstage antics of the headliners, not forgetting the brute force and assuredness of Woking’s Palm Reader.

Kicking off proceedings are Closet Disco Queen who help scrape out the ear wax by providing a noise-infused, instrumental explosion. This Swiss two piece provide a technically gifted array of drum-tastic beats and guitar pedal mania. Guitarist Jona Nido played the guitar like Pablo Escobar played the Columbian State – he knows he’s the don, no other fucker is taking his lime light and he lubricates it with a serious amount of booze. At times, the pedal playing amounts to nothing more than pure showmanship and the structure of the song seems to slip away, before Nido returns to thrashing the guitar parts out as drummer Luc Hess gives out nothing less than a festival headlining performance in drum face expressions. Despite this, they are a refreshing opener and worth checking out.

Up next are Swiss band Olten and hey isn’t that the guitarist from Closet Disco Queen playing bass with his trusty bottle of vodka. Yes it is! The band play half an hour of sludgy rock, again with no vocals and to be honest if you had your eyes shut, you’d be pushed to tell much distinction between the first two acts. There are some good moments bass wise and instrumentally there is often a Vex Red feel about them, but one couldn’t help thinking that Olten might have improved somewhat with a frontman or lady.

By this point, most of the venue is just looking forward to hearing some vocals. Up step Palm Reader, and despite some early sound issues, absolutely smash it. In any other setting, the crowd would have been going mental, but there was a staunch ‘We’re here to listen with our ears, and nod with our heads’ kind of attitude which didn’t really do them justice. Despite being quite a thin gentleman, frontman Josh McKeown was a marauding sight, his vocals incredible in places particularly through the lighter moments, the vocal range there that is often missing in hardcore bands; the mix of Punk and Metal from the rhythm section gave this band a polished edge.

It honestly felt like Palm Reader should have stepped up to the next level by now, leaving behind them day jobs of carpet laying as one of them does to earn his crust. They are real, edgy and also no where near taking themselves too seriously, which is especially important when climbing up through the ranks. It would be good to see more of them, especially if they keep blurring the lines between hardcore and ‘other’ which plays massively in their favour.

Finally, Mutoid Man take to the stage and perform one of the ‘alternative’ sets of the year, bar none. They are a dizzying concussion of huge, intricate riffs, massive technical bass lines and searing drum beats, replete with comic on-stage antics, enhancing to everybody, that irrelevant of which bands you’ve played in, and however ‘cool’ you are supposed to be, there’s nothing  like playing it down, getting on with it; simply enjoying playing together and entertaining.

Opener “Bridgeburner’ is a rocky, poppy, lick ridden masterpiece, and has to be up there for 2015’s most infectious chorus. This coupled with the blithesome on-stage antics of Nick and Steve, complete with metal band backward lunges, mid riff middle finger pointing and other such camaraderie, the miasma of arms and bodies begins to gyrate, the entire crowd flimflammed into grinning like that day you upgraded from the potty to the toilet.

‘Sweet Ivy’, another new one from this year’s ‘Bleeder’ slithers out from Brodsky’s guitar before a raucous scream of ‘sweet ivy’ sounds akin to The Mars Volta, Koller’s beats providing the ferociousness that have made Converge such stalwarts in the scene.

The energy is ramped up in ‘Reptilian Soul’ before the impossibly technical intro of ‘1000 mile stare’ shows off Brodsky’s insane left hand. Complete with a thrash-esque breakdown, the vocal parts guttural and down right lush, before the shredding lessons pay dividends for Mr Brodsky as the song finishes to a wall of feedback like that ‘just got off the plane in Marbella’ kind of feel, the skin buzzing from the electrical warmth.

Comedy man and bassist Nick Cageao has obviously  settled in like a proverbial duck to water, or mutant to the wasteland if you’re getting technical, his bass skills highlighting why he must have been such an easy choice for Steve and Ben, him declaring such anecdotes as ‘someone’s on fire’, only for Steve to repost, ‘nope, he’s just vaping dude’, his finger work as smooth as his intra-band banter.

The whole performance highlighted that you don’t always need CO2 cannons or confetti to play an awesome show, and that often, the best, honest and most visceral of performances can come from three dudes, exceptionally talented, and with a wealth of prior experience, but with a youthful vigour and sheer skill and composition that produces the most worthy, exciting and gauntlet laying performance of anyone in the business. If this is what collaboration achieves, it most definitely confirms the super in super group. Mutoid Man, we salute you!