Between 2013 and 2017, Mutoid Man were incredibly active and put out some of the more interesting and fun takes on post hardcore, punk, sludge, and everything in between. The trio of Steve Brodsky, Ben Koller, and Nick Cageao all had a slew of other musical projects between them but brought all their experience together for something that was a bit more frenetic and unafraid to blur the lines between everything heavy. But following 2017’s War Moans, things slowed down on the recording front and it would take another six years before new material surfaced. Mutoid Man was still around in various capacity, but with Brodsky pivoting to the reunited Cave In it wasn’t clear when or even if we’d get the band back in the spotlight. 2021 found Cageao departing and High on Fire’s Jeff Matz taking his place on bass, and with this new lineup in place Mutants is now here to give listeners the high energy and varied riff fest they expect. It’s a little darker and refined in some places without sacrificing the sense of humor and fun the first two albums established, but the songwriting continues to deliver strong hooks that will keep listeners coming back.
Mutoid Man hasn’t drastically reinvented what they’re doing on album number three, but considering they had a sound that was different from the crowd and struck a balance between metal, rock, and punk that could pull in fans from across the aisle it makes sense to stick with what works. Mutants continues to pack plenty of high flying and aggressive riffs with pop sensibilities into their material, and it once again does this in a more compact fashion. The trio wastes little time, moving quickly between ideas but giving listeners enough substance to latch onto. Sometimes they settle into a slower groove that gives off stoner vibes, while other moments kick up the speed and head into faster thrash or punk territory where the instrumentals hit hard but are still incredibly catchy. Mutoid Man always had a slightly denser tone, but with Jeff Matz’s contributions the bass pops out a bit more on Mutants and things feel a bit heavier than before. Combine that with some riffs that have a bit of a darker slant and you have an album that feels a bit different from its predecessors despite pulling from a similar framework. Admittedly things tend to go for speed and aggression this time around, so you won’t get anything like “Bandages” from War Moans, but the material is still varied in how it uses this speed and more metallic sheen. There really aren’t any bad tracks on the album, though “Broken Glass Ceiling”, “Graveyard Love”, and “Unborn” showcase the band at their best. I particularly dig the extended instrumental passage that starts off “Unborn”, which twists and turns with a rawer tone similar to Lightning Bolt.
Steve Brodsky is in fine form when it comes to vocals, as his singing still stands tall above the recording. His approach on Mutoid Man always came off as a cross between grittier rock ‘n roll and post hardcore, and this is showcased right from the beginning on “Call of the Void”. The verses are a bit grittier, but you get plenty of sing along worthy whoas and even some wailing towards the end of the song. Lyrically there’s still a fun, tongue in cheek feel but also a bit more seriousness that makes sense given recent events like the loss of Cave In’s Caleb Scofield in 2018. You do get a bit more screaming and aggressive vocal work on Mutants which suits the heavier, thrashier moments the instrumentals offer up. This balance between catchy pop sensibilities and harsher screaming/yelling once again makes Mutoid Man a bit different from their peers, as there are plenty of fun sing along moments but they might just knock you on your ass a few minutes later.
It's a little too early to say if Mutants will have the same staying power as War Moans, but so far, it’s kept me hitting the repeat button often and humming some of the riffs and vocal lines. That’s a pretty good indication that I’ll still find myself returning to it in the coming months, and the slightly darker and aggressive slant works well with the softer moments. It may have taken six years to get more Mutoid Man, but they’re three for three when it comes to great albums that are just fun to listen to. Mutants is available from Sargent House.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg