Mutoid Man's 2013 debut EP Helium Head was a genuine surprise. Its raw, in-your-face, full-tilt boogie of hardcore punk, mathy, angular death metal, and reverb-laden prog were 18 minutes of adrenaline rock. Written by guitarist and vocalist Stephen Brodsky (mastermind of Cave In) and drummer Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die), they'd recorded most of their parts on four-track and asked Nick Cageao (a live sound engineer) to dub bass parts. It proved his entry into the band. Since then they've functioned as a three-piece, writing and recording in the studio as well as live, which makes the music on Bleeder, their debut full-length, gel. Don't expect to hear the same muddy sound here. Mutoid Man enlisted Kurt Ballou as producer, and based on his other work behind the glass, he has his own ideas about sound. Bleeder is cleaner but it's just as heavy. One can even argue that the sonic expansion adds to its heft. Check the pre-release track "Reptilian Soul," where the boundaries between hardcore, hard rock (à la Kyuss) and prog metal vanish. Opener "Bridgeburner" commences with the rhythm section in a plodding drone. It gives way to a mad sprint when Brodsky's guitar and (clean) vocals enter. His twinned leads create a hooky spiraling riff, but Koller's drumming never backs off. In the last third, the riff changes and the rhythm section pushes Brodsky's guitar to the brink in knotty death metal. Less than two minutes in length, "Surveillance" is as manic as Meshuggah, with Brodsky's vocals moving from a wailing clean bellow to a snarling growl. It gives way to "Beast" (also under two minutes), a perfect, unholy union of breakdown-laden prog metal and hardcore, with spiky shards of lead guitar cutting up the backdrop as the rhythm section duel with one another for dominance. "Deadlock" showcases an aural war between stoner and prog metal. The bridge is a tight melody that allows for loose, punchy riffs and vamps. Brodsky's screaming vocal within them serves as an intro to mathy instrumental passages. The title track closes the album and is the set's longest at over five minutes. Brodsky's banshee wailing is offset by a thudding, nearly swinging tom-tom and snare; Cageao's bassline creates a low-tuned, visceral, counterpoint melody as Brodsky's guitars signal dynamic and harmonic changes. His vocals (not too far removed from Geddy Lee's during Rush's 2112 period) soar above a web of blues-tinged stoner and prog metal. At only 29 minutes and change, Bleeder goes by in a seeming blue the first time through. But there is simply so much going on in its ever-changing (never boring) musical landscape that it will likely take a dozen listens to fully absorb it all. Ballou's production adds to both the ambition and achievement of execution in Mutoid Man's attack. Bleeder is one of the best outsider metal albums of the year.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek