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REVIEW: Mutoid Man – “War Moans”

Let’s get this out of the way: Mutoid Man‘s last album Bleeder was one of my favorites in 2015 when it was released. It was wild and heavy, yet calculated; a 30-minute controlled burn, if you will. Their genre-straddling mix of punk, hardcore and stoner metal was very endearing to me. The band clearly has fun with their music, but the writing and performances are tight enough to warrant serious consideration.

So, where have Mutoid Man been since? Well, when they weren’t being the house band for metal’s premiere late night talk show, they were crafting War Moans, a follow-up record that surpasses their previous efforts and my own admittedly high expectations.

Mutoid Man songs have a tendency to be catchy with their speedy, precise guitar work and enunciated, melodic vocals, both provided by Stephen Brodsky, who you might know from Cave In. Something as little as his two-note ‘hoo-ooo’ vocal harmony after the first chorus of album opener “Melt Your Mind” is infectious and you can’t help but hum along with it. There’s also plenty of earworms in the versatile use of Brodsky’s guitar.

A handful of different tones and effects are used all over the album. “Bone Chain” has simple riffing with a deep guitar tone hanging in the mix, while Brodsky’s vocals glide through verse after verse before setting a crash course for one of the more electrifying solos in the tracklist. Despite its simplistic structure, this is one of my favorite songs on War Moans. The title track is also great: Ben Koller’s drums punctuate with precise and weighty kicks while Brodsky fingers through some thrashy, bouncy riffs. The build-up to the first verse is the best part; good luck not tapping your feet to the rhythm! Another favorite of mine is “Kiss of Death”. It begins with an icy guitar passage coated in reverb (unfortunately omitted in the video above), but quickly gives way to some frenetic fretting as the track drives onward to Brodsky’s impassioned lyrics about capturing the attention of a love interest: ‘Yes, I know how to take control/don’t let it phase ya/I’m like a laser/ready to read your soul.

What War Moans does that previous projects didn’t do nearly as much is take some risks. For example, two songs contain guest vocals from Sargent House labelmate Chelsea Wolfe. Her unmistakably haunting, sultry voice is heard multilayered in the screecher “Wreck and Survive,” and throughout the latter half of the album’s closer and only ballad, “Bandages”. The band dropped “Bandages” as the final single leading up to the release of War Moans, thereby spoiling what is easily the biggest surprise on the record. Brodsky plucks some somber notes and emotionally croons to the listener, calming his vocal tone without sacrificing his power or presence on the track. Don’t worry, there’s still a great guitar solo on the backend, so you can extend the index and pinky fingers on the hand that’s also holding up your Bic lighter.

Another smaller risk taken was the raw content of their lyrics. In an interview with Bandcamp Daily, Brodsky confesses that this is their most perverse record to date. Listening to the lyrics of “Date with the Devil,” a song that goes into rather graphic detail about impregnating Satan’s daughter, fiercely backs up that claim. I’ll take this time to level with you and say that a lot of the lyrics on this album tread relatively familiar ground and aren’t exceptionally profound, but the vocal delivery has enough weight behind it to act as a mitigator. Just relax, have fun and sing along.

Coming off of an incendiary album like Bleeder, it was hard to imagine Brodsky and company topping themselves, but we don’t have to imagine it at all. The proof is right in front of us! They have once more delivered their now-signature fun, eclectic heaviness while expanding on it by taking risks and tightening their sound even more. Even considering the two weak tracks “Headrush” and “Afterlife”, which are the most guilty of sounding like the band going through the motions, the whole album is energetic, well-mixed (the bass is consistently audible!) and catchy as hell. I’m impressed! Mutoid Man are without a doubt one of the most promising acts going right now, not bad for a side-project named after a 90s video game boss. War Moans is the real deal. Just don’t let it melt your mind.

 

Score: 9/10

Notable Tracks: “Melt Your Mind”; “Bone Chain”; “War Moans”; “Bandages”

FFO: Cave In, a more tame Converge, Lo-Pan

War Moans is out now on Sargent House, available for digital purchase on Bandcamp and physically at the band’s official merch store. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and check out their official site for details on their current US tour!

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