Mutoid Man is the rare breed of band where, surprisingly, more comes out than what went in. Even after casually shrugging off the usual curse of the sub-par supergroup, expected crunchy mathcore from genre heroes Stephen Brodsky and Ben Koller instead exits the Mutoid Man blender in the form of punk, psychedelic prog, stoner- and speed-metal, with every gnarly flavour exacted with pure precision.
If you were wondering, Mutants is no different, despite the band undergoing its own transformation (without the body horror). A bass ‘n’ replace saw High On Fire’s Jeff Matz taking the four-string reign to make his 2021 debut alongside Brodksy and Keller, who have been busy combining their Converge and Cave In backgrounds into gothic-metal masterstroke Blood Moon. In another evolution, we don’t see robots much more, but…aliens? The cover continues to show that despite their reign of terror as metal godheads, this side project remains the perfect vehicle for serious instrumentalists to goof off as much as they bloody please.
Knucklehead mentality matched with all the member’s technical know-how comes in droves, filling every wonderful nook and cranny with metal style. Call Of The Void’s jarring main riffs pogo around pounding rhythms with Brodsky’s unmistakable bellow that somehow captures the catchy kitsch of karaoke with hard-nut gusto. Necks get shredded, chugs match the pounding of brews, and it’s a fist-pumping starting ride through the Mutants vortex, ominously advertised by the singer’s assurance we should “Hurry up and die!” and that “Hell awaits us now”. Siphon tells us we’re heading “Into the slaughter” after some squeaky fart-like noises. There’s never a dull second.
Most of the time the trio’s playing turns out exactly how you least expect it—Frozen Hearts gets the short blastbeat treatment that’s crunchy, mean and lean, managing to fit in flanges, ominous scale runs, and madcap soloing. Matz’s zany doomy influence comes to the fore on Odyssian single Siren Song, where the axemen again manage to ski down Flying Vs through every guitar note imaginable. It’s whizzingly good fun, like when Koller breaks free from his restraints on Broken Glass Ceiling, which starts out like Zakk Wylde playing the blues.
No matter how utterly baffling the genre mixing gets, the constant is Mutoid Man’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink delivery, playing with our funny bones until it hurts like a Dachshund ripping apart a toy hotdog. Unborn’s introductory breakdowns sound so unbelievably ugly you can picture the trio’s stankfaces in the studio. Once you hear the runaway ghost train that makes up speedy amuse bouche Graveyard Love, you forget for a second that Brodksy is of course going to entertain us with Halloweeny double entendres about crushing hard on an undertaker: ‘I’m in love with my grave keeper / I said hey! Make that hole deeper! / I need a casket now!’. You hear his woah-oh ad libs in Demons, with the band’s comedy mosh show closers being the oozy rockin’ and rollin’ Memory Hole and Setting Sun, a Baroness-esque epic that slow builds into unrelenting passages and a genuinely emotional payoff. Who’d have thought?
It feels like Mutoid Man, those joke-loving nonsense peddlers, have taken to Mutants’ writing sessions in the same way as their (regularly) appearances on Gwarsenio Hall’s Two Minutes to Late Night: covering classic sounds aplenty with their own unique fret-covering brand of freaky metallic bong water hardcore. Managing to stuff these concise songs with enough riffs to end a band’s creative album streak, and having a laugh doing it, Mutants shows that no boundless skill needs to take itself too seriously. Bang your head and giggle: Mutoid Man is well and truly back.
For fans of: Sleep, Cave In, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
‘Mutants’ by Mutoid Man is released on 28th July on Sargent House.
Words by Elliot Burr