The sound of Mutoid Man is not something easily explained. The best I can come up with is “’80s metal mashed up with Nintendo game music, but with more hooks and a ton of guitar effects.” Formed in NYC by Boston expats Steve Brodsky (Cave In) and Ben Koller (Converge), Mutoid has cranked out two and a half albums of catchy, hyperactive metal within a short span of time. 2015’s excellent Bleeder gained some recognition here at AMG, and now the band returns with that crucial third album, entitled War Moans.
Opening cuts “Melt Your Mind” and “Bone Chain” are all sugar-coated melodies beneath a crunchy shell of aggressive drums and distorted bass. If Voivod and Muse joined forces to drink entire cases of Tenafly Viper, the result would probably sort of sound like this. The word “immediate” comes to mind, as most of the album’s tracks clock in at under three minutes, and don’t waste much time getting their point across.
“Kiss Of Death” is another winner, with Brodsky laying another massive vocal hook over riffs that recall Morbid Angel‘s sludgier moments. The song’s chorus is an exercise in both ridiculousness and anticipation:
“Blow me” (longer, more awkward pause)
“Blow me a kiss” (never mind, I see where he’s going with this)
“Blow me a kiss of death”
Title track “War Moans” is a salute to Seasons In The Abyss-era Slayer, with Koller channeling Dave Lombardo while Brodsky, aided by effects pedals, plays the Hannemann and King roles simultaneously. Just when I’m thinking that this song could not rule any harder, Marty-goddamn-Friedman (ex-Megadeth) drops in to scorch the earth with some Countdown To Extinction-esque legato runs. My inner 14-year-old squealed with glee upon hearing this song, while present-day me nearly crashed the car from headbanging so hard.
The rest of the tracks may not quite warrant the same level of hyperbole, but are solid nonetheless.”Irons in The Fire” is alternately doomy and spazzed-out and features a guitar assist by Brodsky’s Cave In bandmate, Adam McGrath. “Open Flame” hints at ’80s metal even more than the other tracks, and features some clever variations on the song’s closing motif.
“Date With The Devil” describes such a date in pretty graphic terms, ending with what must have been an interesting night for Brodsky, and a Maury Povich-type scenario nine months later. While the lyrics are not as funny as the band probably thinks they are, the seasick riffage beneath is deadly serious.
The biggest surprise, though, is closing track “Bandages.” Here, Brodsky is in his vulnerable singer-songwriter guy mode, atop a sparse guitar arpeggio that vaguely recalls latter-day Van Halen. The song gradually builds to a powerful, anthemic chorus, followed by an arena-worthy guitar solo. Add in some ethereal backing vocals by Chelsea Wolfe, and I’ve got my imaginary lighter hoisted high in the air. In another world, “Bandages” would have easily been the best Cave In song of this century. In Mutoid Man‘s realm, it’s unexpectedly mature and shows a willingness to push the band into more serious territory when necessary.
As Converge‘s activities seem to be slowing down, and Cave In is all but finished, Mutoid Man seems to be a viable outlet for Brodsky and Koller’s continued output. If War Moans has a flaw, it’s that the highlight tracks are so good that they overshadow the rest of the record. Whether this is a problem or not is debatable. Regardless, War Moans is just as fucking ridiculous as the band’s previous material (if not more so), but with just enough focus and maturity to keep things moving forward.