San Francisco – What’s that sound? It’s a punk band. No, it’s a metal band. Nah, it sounds like gritty prog-rock. Not quite – it’s Mutoid Man, a heavy hybrid of all those genres, possibly the result of some sweaty, noisy orgy featuring Black Flag, Exodus and King Crimson. Mutoid Man’s name certainly captures their amorphous musical makeup and no one comparison can function as an accurate representation of their sound. But let’s not get hung up on labels: for those of you enjoy the adrenaline rush of mosh pits, you’re going to love this group.
Mutoid Man features drummer Ben Koller of Converge and guitarist Steve Brodsky of Cave In, along with Nick Cageao rounding out the lineup on bass. Their first full-album release Bleeder certainly lives up to the credentials of the musicians. The most surprising part seems to be how three guys are able to make this much noise. From the opening NWOBHM guitar lines of the fittingly titled “Bridgeburner” to the closing distortion of the title track, your head will be rattling throughout. It’s almost disorienting how scintillating some of these tracks, like the thundering double-bass and tom attack of “Sweet Ivy,” are, and how unrelenting the band can be. There are very few moments available for the listener to catch their breath, an aesthetic that recalls the pummeling intensity of ‘80s hardcore punk and early thrash albums.
Mutoid Man certainly harkens back to earlier eras in heavy metal history, with occasional Rob Halford-like screams for vengeance on “Surveillance” and guitar solos to make Adrian Smith proud, but they remain modern enough to avoid sounding dated, pushing them closer to the sonic terrain of the prog-metalheads in Mastodon and Kylesa. Each song balances that fine line between unhinged aggression and consuming chaos, the technical prowess of the musicians serving as the only thing keeping the fury reasonably contained. The hardcore ending of “1000 Mile Stare” is a perfect example – superb drumming and throbbing bass keep the tune from spiraling into pure noise with the guttural vocal delivery leading the listener down a terrifying wormhole that presumably leads to hell.
The closing track “Bleeder” slows things down, preferring the drudging canal ride along the river Styx over the freeway to the underworld. The only suitable word to describe the song is evil: it’s a grinding, creeping nightmare that serves as a sinister counterbalance to the dauntless speed exhibited through the nine previous songs. It’s the dramatic comedown from the consistent ferocity that concludes the album on one monster of a note.
The first listen of this one will probably rip by so fast you won’t know what hit you. Clocking in at just thirty minutes, it will resemble a sonic blur more than a cohesive, structured recording. Keep listening. Once you survive the brutality, you’ll be able to recognize the brilliance.
Bleeder is out now via Sargent House and upcoming show dates can be found here.
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