Mutoid Man has a sound that cannot be easily described. Take 80’s heavy metal, add a pinch of sludge, a dash of doom, and more groove than you can shake a stick at. While that might sound like an unfocused sound, it allows the band to be all of these genres at the same time. This is nowhere more apparent than on their latest album War Moans, which is a roller coaster ride through the world of heavy metal that not many bands could do successfully. The band is the brain child Boston natives Steve Brodsky of the band Cave In, and Ben Koller from Converge. Mutoid Man has been very active in a short span of time, and that energy is apparent as you move through the tracks on War Moans.
“Melt Your Mind” is a great song to open the album. It has a super catchy melody hidden just under the surface of a fast paced metal track, and manages to capture both the upbeat and punishing aspects of the band’s sound. “Bone Chain” ramps up the energy, and “Micro Aggression” strips away the remaining pop with its fast picking, dark sounding chords, and its effect laden hook. One thing to note is that every song on this album is only about three minutes long, yet each song is packed to the brim and feels like the kind of musical experience that would take a normal band six or seven minutes to produce.
“Kiss of Death” slows down the pace but introduces a heavy sludge that infects your entire body, but the pace quickly picks back up with “Headrush” and “Irons in the Fire”. Normally the middle of an album is where the weakest songs go, opting to start and end strong, but these two tracks are actually some of the strongest. Ben Koller’s incredible drumming becomes the focal point, and I have to give credit to the audio mix on this album. Every instrument has space, and the low end is punishing while not becoming muddy, which is part of the reason that Ben’s drumming shines so brightly.
The title track “War Moans” was described by a friend as “awesome as shit”, and I think that description fits well. This is one of those tracks that requires you to crank up your stereo as high as you can. Channeling some slayer style Seasons in the Abyss on the drums, Koller once again steals the show, that is until Marty Freidman descends from his throne to lay down vibrato heavy legato like only he can.
Did I mention that Mutoid Man is also a singer-songwriter band? “Bandages” is a power ballad in the best way possible. Picture an arena in the mid-1980’s, with every long-haired, ripped-jeans wearing fan holding lighters to the sky while the light show hits its peak. I’m a sucker for a heavy power ballad, and this track fills that description well. Morose vocals and a melodic solo that kicks into a pitch shifted outro cement this as one of the best tracks on the album.
One of the great things about Mutoid Men, and War Moans in particular, is its ability to be a lot of things at once. The vocals aren’t focused on being gratuitously scream-heavy or edgy, but rather, they provide a great sense of melody over fantastically heavy instrumental tracks. It’s pop, metal, rock, sludge, all in one 12 track album. And it’s all done with a sense of self awareness that is very refreshing. Good luck putting this one down.