Talking about Mutoid Man is invigorating but tough, for a few reasons. Foremost is the pedigree of its members: vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky is a past member of Converge as well as the mastermind behind alt-rock/post-hardcore genre-ignorers Cave In, drummer Ben Koller has been staking his claim as the drummer of Converge for quite some time now in addition to being involved in All Pigs Must Die and Acid Tiger, and bassist Nick Cageao is the sound man at Saint Vitus Bar, a venue that has become one of metal’s most hallowed institutions in the 6-and-change years it’s been around. The second reason is their growing cultural significance; Mutoid Man is the house band for metal’s best (only) talk show, “Two Minutes To Late Night,” which is starting to pick up steam (as it should, because it’s pretty damn great).
Third, and most importantly for this review, is the fact that Mutoid Man doesn’t really seem to make music for anybody but themselves. They know exactly what they want from an album, precisely what sound they’re aiming for as a band to the nth degree. Critically discussing a band that doesn’t seem to really give a fuck one way or another what you think of them is always refreshing because they aren’t going to pay much attention to what you have to say, but also intimidating for exactly the same reason.
This is all speculation, of course. I have no idea how closely Mutoid Man pays attention to reviews or cares about critical reception to War Moans. Brodsky and co. might have a very soft spot for criticism and take everything said to heart completely, but if their music is anything to go buy, that’s certainly not the case at all. These bad boys play a rousing, fast-paced brand of stoner rock that throws classic punk, sludge, thrash metal, and hardcore into a blender and turns it all into a fine, even-keel puree of thumping drums and speedy guitar licks. Anybody who’s heard a Mutoid Man song before knows precisely what to expect from War Moans: rousing, anthemic stoner music written by a band with a keen ear for what makes a great chorus. The three-piece formula keeps their tracks from ever reaching a point of loquaciousness, but their production is thick and verbose. If the members of this band know one thing, it’s how to make their music do the heavy lifting for them instead of depending on flashy instrumentation or overwrought performances to get the job done. It’s a “give-no-fucks” attitude translated into pitch and frequency without pulling any punches.
Where War Moans falters is in its relative safety: again, Mutoid Man knows exactly what they want to hear from their music, and while this engenders confidence and proper execution, what it doesn’t bring about is experimentation. As said before, nobody who’s had the pleasure of hearing these gentlemen before is going to be surprised by what’s present on War Moans, but some tricks up the sleeve might have brought about a much more emphatic, nuanced side of the songwriters involved here – one we know they have given their prolific and multifarious discographies. Some of the latter half of the album sees more playfulness, and closer “Bandages” is a fantastic exercise in delayed gratification from a band that typically trades in anything but, but it’s just simply not enough, nor far enough removed from Mutoid Man’s existing sound. This is, however, not a large complaint; Mutoid Man is merely a band where what you encounter at first is a pretty good demonstration of what else is in store.
War Moans is pretty much exactly what the second album from Mutoid Man should be. Everything that worked so well about their previous releases is present here and done up to a great standard: every riff is great, Brodsky’s vocal performance is excellent as per usual, and the thick, meaty production brings out the inherent groove and heaviness of their style. Mutoid Man may only do one thing, but they do that one thing so well and with such aplomb that it’s impossibly hard not to smile and nod along. Will they redefine stoner rock as we know it? No, but who gives a shit? War Moans is about killer riffs, catchy melodies, and great songs, and it has all three in spades.
. . .
Mutoid Man drops War Moans through Sargent House Records today. You can check it out on any music streaming service you like, and get merchandise here if you’re so inclined.