The most improbable heavy’n’roll trio is back. MUTOID MAN is still driven by the mad genius of Stephen Brodsky (Cave In, Old Man Gloom and about 140 other projects), weapon of mass percussion Ben Koller (Converge) and now rounded out by no less than High On Fire’s groovemeister Jeff Matz. As soon as the new line-up and album were announced, everyone was instantly hyped. But none of us, even a dedicated fan like myself, was ready for the masterpiece to come.
Originally, I just intended to lay down a list of superlatives to describe this album as it is nothing less than the strongest slap in the face I’ve received in recent years. For “Mutants” is everything one could desire from a rock and metal album and I am challenging any distortion lover not to find something they’ll love about this record.
Let’s start with the obvious: the dissonances. As soon as the intro riff of “Call of the Void” kicks in, it scratches our ears in the most interesting way. Such an appetite for dissonances is rare and we’ll hear that again on “Unborn” or “Siphon”, leading to some of the most memorable tracks on the album. Far from just being an attention-grabbing histrionic effect, this is the logical evolution of what they initiated on the two first records. Turning the dissonant into a vibrant sonic element is an achievement on its own.
Then “Mutants” also delivers the trademark Mutoid Man assets. First, Stephen Brodsky’s super catchy, melodic and slightly 80s-flavored vocal delivery: just listen to the anthemic “Call of the Void” (yes, it is that good) or the chorus on “Siren Song”. On the other hand, his screamed vocals are better controlled and more diverse than on the previous efforts: heavy as a black hole on “Broken Glass Ceiling” and nearly hardcore-ish on the bridge of “Unborn” (I even wondered if Brodsky sang this one but we’ll double-check with him when they play in France in a few weeks).
And while this year marks the return of Pantera, the best tribute to Dimebag actually comes in the form of the “Broken Glass Ceiling” opening riff, one of this album’s highlights without a doubt. Mutoid Man remains a hard-hitting band able to deliver bigger-than-life nasty riffs, just like on “Frozen Heart” and “Unborn”. We could even talk about the whammy solos (I know, it’s not an actual Digitech whammy, but the octaver with bad tracking effect!) that recall the lead riffs on “Bandages” from their last album “War Moans”.
Mutoid Man, it’s also Ben Koller on drums, and oh my god what a blast it is to hear him play. Sitting somewhere between Mastodon and Motörhead, his drumming is just as crazy, tight and fast-paced while at times just going big when needed. Intros to “Graveyard Love” and “Demons” and all his drum fills perfectly demonstrate this balance of technicality and power.
Last but not least comes the X Factor: Jeff Matz. If this album was clearly not meant to let the bass shine, there are quite a few magnificent basslines to mention: the tension-filled opening on “Graveyard Love” or “Demons” and the insane harmonies on “Siphon” just to name a few, or more than any other track, everything the bass brings to closing track “Setting Sun” does it for me. Let’s add that Mr Matz seems to be responsible for quite a few backup vocals and this brings a variety that is more than welcome on the album.
Now that we listed all the ingredients and said how amazing this new album is, we still need to complete two more tasks: understanding why it works so well but also summarizing our feelings after so many listenings.
To answer the “why” part, we need to speculate a little but I personally believe that Brodsky’s 25-year career and his legendary complicity and friendship with Koller are the main reasons for this album’s success. With Mutoid Man, these guys do not wear on their shoulders the weight of their respective bands’ heavy discographies and their influences on an entire scene: it’s just a project born from a joke between friends with no boundaries from the get-go. It has allowed them to explore concepts and directions on their previous records without having to think about crafting the ultimate album. “Mutants” was most likely recorded with that same mindset, a brand new focus and this trademark sound honed through years of playing together, that makes this album such a masterpiece. One that will soon be considered as genre-defining as the best work any of these guys have put out with Converge, Cave In or High On Fire. Add to that the basslines of Jeff and a massive production from Kurt Balou and there you have it.
Quant au ressenti général, c’est bien simple : c’est un album sans temps mort, sans raté, sans concession. Un album puissant et droit dans la gueule, sans aucune prétention mais avec de l’ambition, un combiné de folie et de maîtrise. Un album qui se paye le luxe de durer pile le temps nécessaire et de se terminer sur un chant aérien sur fond acoustique d’une beauté inédite pour le combo. Bref, “Mutants” est une énorme baffe dans la gueule, un album colossal, qui va truster un sacré paquet de tops de fin d’année, à commencer par le mien.
As to how we feel about the album, it’s pretty simple: “Mutants” is all killer no filler, straight to your face and relentless. Without any over-the-top pretension but enough ambition, it’s a perfect mix of craziness and mastery. They even managed to give it an ideal duration and went as far as to close the album on an acoustic track with aerial vocals to end on a beautiful and unexpected note. “Mutants” is a colossal album, a major slap in the face that will, for sure, end on many rock and metal end-of-the-year lists, starting with mine.
Last modified: 6 September 2023