Mutation – ‘Dark Black’ (Round Records/PledgeMusic) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Friday, 13 January 2017 04:30

mutation-dark-blackYou know how it is; you wait six days for the first album of the year to drop into your inbox and then two come along at once.

 

Whilst Gone Is Gone’s debut album might be getting prog fans all moist about the midriff, for those of us who crave pure unyielding aural warfare only ‘Dark Black’, the third album by Mutation, can scratch that particularly ferocious itch. Helmed by Ginger Wildheart and featuring a revolving door of guest musicians (with past collaborators including Napalm Death bass-strangler Shane Embury), Mutation is a project held in equal parts esteem and bemusement by the general Wildhearts community. First conceived all the way back in 2011, issues with a lack of label interest and a decidedly uncommercial bent meant that it wasn’t until 2013 that the project finally found a lightning bolt that could bring the beast roaring to life, in the form of PledgeMusic. And roar it most certainly did.

 

A double release (triple, if you count the accompanying debut by sugar pop project Hey! Hello!), Mutation explores the darker side of Mr. Wildheart’s songwriting repertoire. Fans have long been divided on the darker side to Ginger’s psyche, with the likes of ‘Endless, Nameless’ treated as basement-dwelling aberrations in The Wildhearts canon. But finally, Mutation offered a stand-alone project that was all fangs and no sugar relief – a band as anti-pop as you could hope to find.

 

‘The Frankenstein Effect’ played out like a love letter to thrash metal, all whirling riffs and crushing rhythms in a twisted take that proved there was plenty of ground yet to cover in thrashdom. ‘Error 500’, on the other hand, was by far the heaviest and most gruesome Wildheart-penned record yet. A grindcore loving monster that drafted in the likes of Mark E Smith to produce something truly sneering and nasty, it was (in short) the harshest and most divisive thing Ginger had ever put his name to. Until now...

 

 

Enter ‘Dark Black’, the third installation in the Mutation saga and a record which was described by Ginger back in July 2016 as “the most upsetting of the three, very disturbing in parts”. Much like Hey! Hello! before it, ‘Dark Black’ is the result of a collaboration between two major players. Ginger found a co-conspirator in all things noisy, nasty and a little bit headfucked for the third Mutation album in Scott Lee Andrews, formerly of Exit_International. One of North Wales’ chief noisenik songwriters, Andrews is no stranger to visceral aural portraits himself, having provided one of the basses and vocals in the dual-bass assault of Exit_International and crafted his own solo noise project, Jaws of Deaf, after moving to Australia.

 

There is literally no preamble to ‘Dark Black’, the album literally screaming and tearing its way right through the speakers on ‘Authenticity’. Linear, this most certainly ain’t. Like a headlong collision between grindcore and dubstep, a live electrical cable fight between The Fall and Sleaford Mods, the album starts off exactly as it means to go on; nasty, brutal and brimming with pure electrically-charged aural filth. Straight ahead musical torture, the track makes full use of an ominous backing vocal courtesy of long-time fan favourite (and all round good egg) Givvi Fynn to keep the listener on tenter-(meat)-hooks.

 

As taking a breather is for pussies, the album then ploughs straight ahead with ‘Toxins’. Unlike with Ginger’s past output, there’s no tea this time to sweeten the deal. Mutation is to noise what Big Black were to punk in the ‘80s; the entire game is stepped up tenfold when they are on the scene. Making full use of an aural arsenal that contains much more than just your everyday blast-beats and screams, ‘Toxins’ is a noise epic clocking in at just shy of three minutes in length. Crashing and howling with Industrial-sounding carnage in a way that makes Ministry at their heaviest seem like Nine Inch Nails, this is the sound of the gates of hell being well and truly kicked open – perfectly accentuated by a hopeful choral note which rings out brightly at the end of the track... only to be smashed apart again by another barrage of riffs.

 

Two tracks in, the album still hasn’t offered so much as a whiff of a classical metal riff, leaving it all to ‘Devolution’ to chug its way through the noise-blasted wastelands. If ‘Toxins’ opened the gates of hell, ‘Devolution’ is a musical journey through the landscapes. An extreme metal Dante’s ‘Inferno’, ‘Devolution’ comes complete with ominous church-organ sounding keys, a chugging out-of-control-train-ride riff and the aural equivalent of a carnival being machine gunned to death whilst being mauled by a bear; just as you would expect of a track which utilises the talents of premier eardrum-botherer Devin Townsend.

 

The first (and thus far, only) single for the album, released as a teaser on the day of release, ‘Irritant’ is ‘Dark Black’’s take on a pop song. An earworm dredged from a corpse and deep-fried in nastiness, the track is as close to a straight ahead sing-along as the third incarnation of Mutation get, making use of a typically Ginger Wildheart cheeky glint-in-the-eye chorus: ”fuck off you cunt, you are an irritant”. With big choruses now out of the way, the riffs can now come out in full force for ‘Skint’, a song which puts Ginger’s snarled vocal to the fore of the mix making full use of gyroscopic riffs and drums set onto full ‘HULK SMASH’ mode. Things then take a left turn musically. Though the ‘punk’ side of noise punk hasn’t particularly been explored in the Mutation project, ‘Hate’ takes an admirable stab at putting on some very heavy boots and pogoing right across the listener’s eardrums, almost frantic in its punk-ish take on the noisy Mutation formula.

 

 

Before you go thinking that Mutation are ready to embrace their more straight-ahead musical leanings, ‘Victim’ spits up another retching, slobbering Noise monster. One of the project’s strongest suits has always been the utilisation of different vocal styles and ‘Dark Black’ is no exception. No track demonstrates this better than ‘Victim’; Ginger brings forth a snarling punk vocal line, Givvi offers up an almost dainty pop-ish vocal (creating an effect not entirely unlike the superb Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard) and Scott completes the triad with shrieking noise punk vocals that wouldn’t go amiss on a Pissed Jeans record, only to go all-out with Bathtub Shitter-esque shrieking at the track’s crescendo to trickle a little taste of Grindcore into the mix.

 

As if to make up for the vocal miscellany of the previous track, ‘Dogs’ is a smorgasbord of vicious, jarring riffs with very little vocal content. Previous Mutation records certainly had a tinge of “Napalm Death via Cardiacs” - which is incidentally a perfect description of this just-shy-of-three-minutes ear-drum smasher. ‘Dark Black’’s tenth and final track, ‘Deterioration’ is a fitting end to the cacophony. Punctuated with huge drop beats, Slayer-on-speed riffs and minimalist-electro segments, the track’s crescendo is an unnerving and perfectly epitomising scream which could have been lifted from any of Ginger’s beloved horror flicks. ‘Deterioration’ by name, deterioration by nature, the track is a final jolt to the ear-drums to make sure no listener (or speaker) is left unscathed.

 

The third Mutation album is most definitely not an album you’d take home to meet the folks, nor is it for that matter an album you’d stick on to get the party started (unless you’re looking for a Donner party). Instead, ‘Dark Black’ is an album which conjures an unwavering sense of nastiness, lurking under the floorboards and in the walls and kept under lock-and-key lest it open like the Ark of the Covenant and melt some poor unsuspecting bastard’s face off. Best enjoyed in a dark basement with similar wrong-minded individuals looking for the next best thing in extreme noise terror (atmosphere, not band), this is an album that won’t just kill the neighbour’s lawn - it’ll do in the whole neighbourhood.

 

‘Dark Black’ is available to order now on PledgeMusic.

 

Ginger plays with The Wildhearts on Thursday 26 January at the O2 Ritz in Manchester (with support from Hey! Hello! and The Main Grains) and Rock City in Nottingham (performing ‘Fishing For Luckies’) on Friday 27 January. Tickets for both shows are available HERE.

 

For more music from Scott Lee Andrews, visit scottleeandrews.bandcamp.com/.