Mutoid Man

support Piss Vortex
author AP date 26/10/15 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

We are in the midst of high season for concerts in Denmark now, so dear readers, you ought to be prepared for live reviews popping up left and right on this webzine over the next month or so. Kickstarting the jam-packed schedule is this report of my first experience with Mutoid Man, a project which brings together the two underground legends Ben Koller (drummer of Converge & All Pigs Must Die) and Stephen Brodsky (vocalist and guitarist of Cave In). The sheer amount of extra promotion leading up to this show had me fearing a dismal attendance, but my skepticism dissolves as soon as the evening’s support act draws us into the concert room with deafening feedback. There must be about 100 people in attendance — plenty to avoid the awkward situation where a few passionate fans expect to be given their money’s worth, but the artists treat the whole thing as a bad joke.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Piss Vortex

Out of the extreme metal genres, grindcore represents the least likely candidate ever to find its way into my headphones. There is no situation or mood for which the constant cacophony and stalwart opposition to melody would provide the optimal soundtrack, except possibly if I were to be overcome by sudden psychosis and embark on a murderous rampage. And yet, there is something utterly fixating about Piss Vortex in the live setting. The music is so loud, aggressive and uncompromising that it is practically paralysing, and its ferocity finds an excellent accessory in vocalist Simon Stenbæk, who has the frontman routine ironed to near perfection. All flailing arms and brutally indecipherable screaming, his constant surging toward and receding from the crowd in violent waves gives the man the aura of a psychopath, and let us be honest, is that not the most fitting persona in this genre?

My indifference toward grindcore remains unchanged, mind you, but even as vehement an opponent to it as I could not deny that in concert the quartet — completed by guitarist Christian Bonnesen, bassist Rasmus Moesby and drummer Niclas Sauffaus — is a force to reckon with (albeit that sound engineer Rasmus Toftlund’s customary magic with the knobs and dials of the venue’s soundboard plays a significant role in lifting it to another level tonight). The musicians sans Stenbæk are not as explosive as the music to be sure, but they do enough lost-in-the-moment sort of violent rocking out to ensure no corner of the stage is ever lacking animation. And contrary to the general status quo in this scene, there is the occasional injection of atmosphere and melody in the ‘Vortex’s music producing rays of light through the grinding maelstrom, and a selection of bendy, dissonant riffs that hark back to Bonnesen’s past in The Psyke Project to keep this scribe’s need for cohesion satisfied.

Unfortunately tonight’s audience is marred Monday evenings’ (lack of) energy; literally everyone here remains glued to the ground, arms crossed for the duration of the performance, thus preventing the spectacle from melting into the single, reciprocating mass of chaos that Piss Vortex’s music yearns for. It is no fault of the band though, and one must commend them for delivering such a professional and enthusiastic show under the circumstances. For the sworn haters of grindcore: if there is one band in this genre that has the capacity to change your mind, then Piss Vortex is a very good option.

Mutoid Man

Honestly, given that Mutoid Man’s debut album ”Bleeder” failed to produce the wow effect one would expect with such esteemed musicians involved, my expectations for tonight’s performance were mixed — especially as I never had the pleasure of experiencing Cave In live. But as soon as the trio initiates the proceedings in casual manner with the opening track to said record, “Bridgeburner”, it becomes resoundingly clear that tonight’s performance is going to be neither ordinary nor boring. Brodsky and his pals are in a spectacular mood, the main man flashing the nasty finger at Koller, bassist Nick Cageao and the crowd with such frequency you could be forgiven for thinking the man must be on speed. All three members are sporting wide grins, and play with such enthusiasm one wonders how only two long-haired gentlemen upfront have elected to respond with headbanging. Looking around, the remainder of the audience is content with observing from a fixed position, but judging from the smiles on virtually every person’s face, I am not alone in forming a very positive impression of the band based on this one track alone.

Here, in the live setting, the songs that comprise “Bleeder” suddenly come to full fruition, with the anthemic “Sweet Ivy” and the following “1000 Mile Stare” especially played in glorious renditions that see Brodsky collapsing onto the floor and delivering a tapped solo lying on his back. All throughout the man looks every bit the mad genius he is reputed to be, all bulging eyes and snapping amusing remarks in between the songs (e.g. when Cageao’s bass strap tears during “Friday the 13/8”, Brodsky addresses this with the words, ”Is the strap-on fixed? How are we going to fuck without the strap-on?”, or when he introduces Koller as the man ”from at least 7000 other bands, beating the foreskins for like an hour, ripping the wood like nobody could.”). Koller and Cageao, too, look to be in high spirits, the former customarily veiled by his own hair yet wildly energetic, the latter a constant whirlwind of rocking out and providing countless examples of his own technical prowess (something that was not as easy to determine whilst listening to the album).

This is Mutoid Man’s first time in Denmark, so Brodsky insists on taking a moment ”to appreciate the wonderment and awesomeness off [our] Piss Vortex” — praise like candy to a Dane’s ears — before ripping out “Sacriledge” and “Scrape the Walls”, the latter of which finds Brodsky and Cageao exchanging instruments mid-song, and the humorous antic of the former taping his mouth shut with gaffa tape and then attempting to scream the lyrics. This is one of those concerts where one would have to be a statue to avoid smiling, yet at the same time, Mutoid Man are not simply pulling the leg. Fun they like to have, which tends always to be a bonus in my book, but none of the ridiculousness compromises the authenticity or integrity of their music, which in itself is well written and complex enough to maintain your undivided attention. All of the three musicians are experts at their tradecraft, with Koller allowed a ludicrous amount of liberty to do his thing, Cageao running his fingers through licks almost as liquid as Brodsky’s melodies, and Brodsky himself showing his breathtaking range of vocals more than once (most prominently in an excellent cover of The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” near the end of the set).

As “Gnarcissist” concludes the festivities at the end of an encore then, it is hard to imagine anyone leaving this concert grumpy. It is a rare delight to witness a band as enamoured by playing music as Mutoid Man; the sheer enthusiasm of these three gentlemen is impossibly contagious, and even though a more raucous audience could have transformed this into a magical evening, the trio does more than enough to mark their concert as one of the best in 2015 yet. Here’s hoping for a swift return.

Setlist:

  • 01. Bridgeburner
  • 02. Reptilian Soul
  • 03. Sweet Ivy
  • 04. 1000 Mile Stare
  • 05. Friday the 13/8
  • 06. Sacriledge
  • 07. Scrape the Walls
  • 08. Lost in the Hive
  • 09. Beast
  • 10. Dead Dreams
  • 11. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (The Animals cover)
  • 12. Boss (Kazuki Muraoka cover)
  • 13. Scavengers

—Encore—

  • 14. Gnarcissist

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