Album Review

Review: Mutation III – Dark Black

It was Oscar Wilde who popularised the term “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” He was making a direct commentary on the way the artist interprets the world around them and how this can influence our actions; how we model our own behaviours based on what we see, hear and absorb via popular culture. Taking this in to account, I am hard pushed to think of a way this has played out more dramatically than the events following the release of Ginger Wildheart’s most brutal piece of work: Mutation III – Dark Black. True to the nature of the music; which is a dense mixture of industrial, hammer-smashed beats, pounding vocals and grinding riffs; it appears its primary creator has suffered under the weight of such a seething, angry piece of work. Within weeks of its release, Ginger Wildheart found himself in the centre of a controversy, having lashed out at a heckling fan, causing injury, which resulted in his subsequent arrest and unfortunately an emotional breakdown that has reminded us how the creative mind behind such a dark piece of work can potentially be as damaged and erratic as the music would suggest. Our thoughts go out to Mr. Wildheart and we wish him a successful recovery.

Mutation III is by no means an easy listen. That should not be taken to mean it’s a negative experience. It is definitely worth your time and to my ears a very satisfying album. Essentially, it’s a collaboration between Ginger Wildheart and Scott Lee Andrews of Exit International . They have described this record as “an aural exorcism of two people’s combined life-threatening psychological disorders.” The music contained sounds exactly as you might imagine given that description. It’s also worth mentioning that like other Mutation releases, Dark Black features an impressive line up of guest musicians: Devin Townsend, Motorhead’s Phil Campbell, Random John Poole, Arthur Shepherd, Jamie Oliver of UK SUBS, Mauro Pawlowski (ex-DEUS) and Paul Catten of Barrabas all feature, as does long term Ginger sticksman, Denzel (Dean Pearson).

And so it begins… After a brief, sampled introduction, Authenticity erupts with force and sets the intensity level at 11. From the first moments we are deep into levels of blackened grindcore that would appeal to anyone who enjoyed Full Of Hell’s newest release (Trumpeting Ecstasy), or maybe just anyone who likes to be battered around the ears with volume. The focus shifts quickly and we are soon into industrial territory. Lyrics are barked over hammering rhythms like a thoroughly miserable manifesto of vitriol. Ginger and Scott hold you by the throat and maintain this this level of hostility right up until a brief break in the clouds when during Devolution we experience our first gasps of air. The song expands into a glorious panorama and tricks the listener into a false sense of calm before crashing into the next song, which holds the album’s first sing-a-long moment… “Fuck off cunt, you are an irritant!”

By this point, it is clearly apparent that Ginger’s talent for writing a great hook can’t be disguised by the layers of distortion and sonic dirt applied to these songs. It is something we first experienced decades ago on The Wildhearts, Endless Nameless album. Those who were there at the time will remember the strong melodies throughout and how they were mischievously covered in a belligerent, filthy noise. It was impenetrable for some, but if you got it then you are likely to get this too.  Interestingly, with a similar nod to Ginger’s more accessible tunes, there are moments during these songs when I feel like I am listening to a MUCH heavier, more cantankerous version of Ginger’s poppier project, Hey! Hello! Albeit a version where anything remotely positive has been manhandled towards the door and pushed forcefully out into the rain, leaving Dark Black to carry on with the business of distorting the guitars as far as they will possibly go. A task effortlessly achieved on tracks like, Skint and Hate. The latter also featuring some impressive blastbeats that give way to more industrial riffing and lyrical violenceStabbing, staccato punches build into a moment of pure heavy before galloping head first into layers of more distortion and anger. Dark Black does not let up. Victim serves up machine gunned drums, vocals are drenched in overdrive, and for a brief moment, alongside the cacophony, I am reminded of At The Drive InThis reference passes and we’ve already moved on. Drums whip, voices continue to scream and loop into Dogs which features some classic riffing, reminiscent of Ginger’s playing on Fishing for Luckies, only here it has been peppered with moments of grindcore and leads us towards a superb slab of black metal courtesy of the albums final track, Deterioration. Supremely heavy and with an appropriate sense of climaxit is in the last moments of the album that we are treated to its weightiest riff, which it alternates with an intense, Ministry-esque clatter before bringing things to a breathless conclusion.

The whole album plays like a choke hold that rarely loses its grip. It is intense, violent and pissed off; but wonderfully so, and if you are resilient enough to go along for the ride it is a short, sharp roar into the face of those that grind us down. This is echoed in a statement made by Ginger while he recovers and prepares for a UK Mutation tour: “I consider this music a catharsis, a way of channelling the aggression and desperation that I am currently feeling. When I say we will rid ourselves of our demons on every date of this tour I mean it 100%. This will not be a drill.”

I’ll see you at the front.

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