Mutoid Man’s initial aspirations were fairly humble. Guitarist Stephen Brodsky (Cave In) and drummer Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die) wanted to bask in their love of frantic, ferocious, no-frills metal. No riff was deemed too extreme, no drum pattern was considered too absurd. With the recruitment of bassist Nick Cageao, Mutoid Man pushed metal’s villainous pageantry to vaudevillian levels. Over the course of extensive touring on their debut album Bleeder, the band’s live shows became exercises in showmanship, with the requisite headbanger gymnastics morphing into Van Halen-esque panache and hardcore-basement-show prankery. On their sophomore album, War Moans, the band’s stage one-upmanship carries over to their songcraft, yielding an album of ridiculously savage hooks and next-level dexterity.
The beginning of the writing process for War Moans was marked by a fortuitous setback. While touring on Bleeder, Mutoid Man learned their rehearsal space was the latest victim of gentrification in Brooklyn. Their equipment was relocated to the basement of Cageao’s work, the renowned metal club St Vitus. Practices were held on the club’s stage during the venue’s off-hours. It’s fitting that War Moans was born in a room that has not only hosted intimate appearances by bands like Carcass, Megadeth, and a one-off Cobain-less Nirvana, but has also become a second home to the city’s many up-and-coming punk and metal bands. Fittingly, you can hear vestiges of big-name acts’ precision mixed in with the scrappy underground bands’ raw tenacity and unbridled hunger in Mutoid Man’s latest offering. From the chugging bass line and guitar trills that kick off “Melt Your Mind”, Mutoid Man sets a precedent of divine instrumentation and unholy riffs. “Bone Chain” demonstrates the band’s uncanny ability to meld punishing breakdowns, fretboard acrobatics, and pop sensibilities into one propulsive punch. “Micro Aggression” crams more deliriously savage hooks into two-and-a-half minutes than your average thrash band can muster over the course of an entire album. The breakneck tempos are then dropped to the midtempo stomp of “Kiss of Death”, which marries the warped bottomfeeder sludge of Morbid Angel’s “World of Shit (The Promised Land)” with ‘80s hair metal vocal bravado.
“Well, it’s certainly our most perverted record,” Brodsky says when asked if there’s an overarching theme to War Moans. And without a doubt, lyrics like “Came inside of Satan’s daughter / Nine months later, who’s the father?” from “Date with the Devil” reinforce this notion. But rather than lampooning metal’s machismo, Brodsky sees War Moans as a statement on larger society’s lascivious obsessions. “It’s about how easily things can be sexualized and how that can be at war with your senses, how that makes you perceive things, and how it forces you to behave. Maybe it even attacks your ability to stay on the straight and narrow.” Cageao sees another subconscious theme to the album—our predilection towards self-destruction. “It makes more sense now after the election, and that wasn’t even the intention,” Cageao says with a mischievous grin. “The world is destroying itself.”
The second side of War Moans captures this more serious side of Mutoid Man, but also rallies against the possible downfall of the modern world by recruiting musical allies to fill out their doomsday epics. “Irons in the Fire” finds Cave In compatriot Adam McGrath lending guitar heft to a megalith anthem. The title track instantly recalls The Big Four, with thrash icon Marty Friedman further cementing the vibe by lending a blazing guitar solo. Grim folk luminary Chelsea Wolfe and her longtime collaborator Ben Chisholm lend vocals and auxiliary instrumentation to the goth-inflected “Wreck and Survive”, as well as the album’s harrowing closing track. “We wanted to write a Mr. Big-style arena rock ballad,” Cageao says of “Bandages”. And indeed, the big open chords and wounded lyrics will surely have audiences pulling their lighters out of their pockets, but Wolfe’s siren vocals and Chisholm’s electronic pulses give the song an apocalyptic weight never attained by the darlings of the Sunset Strip.
Despite the ominous tone set by the closing tracks of the album, fatalism has never been the objective of Mutoid Man. “The ultimate goal has always been Van Halen,” Cageao says. “No one is Van Halen, obviously. No one can play like that. I mean it in the sense that there is no fear of being an asshole.” Indeed, anyone that’s witnessed the band live is keenly aware that Cageao and his compatriots prioritize fun over kvlt posturing. And with their latest album, Mutoid Man effectively captures their power, precision, and grandiosity for all posterity. Sargent House is proud to release War Moans to the masses on June 2, 2017.