Mutation – Mutation III: Dark Black Review

Ginger Wildheart has had an interesting career. Achieving mild commercial success with the pop/rock band The Wildhearts, he’s expanded his repertoire to include “power pop” (Hey! Hello!), folk music (Ghost in the Tanglewood) and latterly a noise rock and metal project (Mutation). It’s the last of these and its third record, Mutation III: Dark Black (III), which is the subject of today’s musings. A collaboration with Scott Lee Andrews of Jaws of Deaf and Exit International, it boasts session work from such legends as Devin Townsend and Phil Campbell (Motorhead). This is quite the list of previous projects and other associated bands and it’s therefore no surprise to find that III is similarly chaotic, drawing on a range of forebears in forging its sound.

III is best expressed as somewhere between noise and punk rock, with the sawing pace and heaviness of grindcore. My mum described it as “a racket”; this isn’t untrue though the well-defined guitar lines lend a slight groove metal sensibility to proceedings. There’s even a death n’ roll introduction to “Deterioration.” The vocals are appropriately venomous but also packed with personality, aggressively sneering, snarling and screeching. Fleshing out the remainder of the record are the vague electronic beats, such as that on “Authenticity,” and occasional classical components in the background, such as the violins and piano on “Devolution.” It’s a tribute to the compositional skill of Wildheart and Andrews that this mixed bag of influences never feels disparate or random. It may also be aided by the nasty, caustic production which layers a film of dirt and distortion over everything, drawing the differing sounds together.

And yet, despite the substantial speed and heaviness of the record, I find myself distinctly unaffected. The lyrics and themes aim to be blunt and offensive to disarm the listener. Such gems include “Fuck off you cunt, you are an irritant!” on “Irritant” and “You are nothing but shit!” on “Victim.” Instead, their delivery is insincere and seem superficial. I hear the music and I hear the lyrics but I don’t feel them. III sounds like intentional snowflake-bait but loses impact because the anger isn’t genuine. Worse, in fact, is that it’s not just a loss of impact but an active detriment as I find it vaguely irritating.

This notable lack of true nastiness is compounded by the effort to make III melodic. A number of the leading riffs are reasonably noddable and some of the choruses have a shout-along quality which confers a pleasantry to the listening experience. But this is counter-intuitive to my initial description in the second paragraph above. The issue is that while the album is melodic enough to undermine the veneer of vitriol it’s not melodic enough to become truly memorable and catchy. These two aspects counteract each other and leave a record which confuses me as to intention and execution. While mildly satisfactory on a momentary basis for both brutality and melody I’m not compelled to hit replay once finished with my reviewing duties.

Acid test: how do I feel now that I’m returning to III two weeks after first sitting down with it? My general laziness and unreliability has meant this review is tardy and more time has passed than usual between the beginning and end of the process. The net result – and perhaps cause – of this gap was that I really didn’t want to spend more time exploring III. The forced grit, ultimately bland melodies and unremittingly crushed master contribute to an experience which discourages repeat listens. Mutation aim to be alluringly nasty but wind up repellent.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Undergroove Records
Website: N/A
Releases dates: EU: 2017.06.23 | NA: 07.07.2017

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