When Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky and Converge’s Ben Koller first did the fusion dance last May (along with basist Nick Cageo), they gave birth to Helium Head, 15 breakneck minutes of some of the earworrm-iest hardcore punk I’ve ever heard. Mutoid Man now return with the full length fruits of their powers combined, and in Bleeder the mighty three piece step on the brakes just a tad but lose none of their infectious intensity.
Flashes of Helium Head’s rollicking mad science shine through on Bleeder, particularly in the swirling guitar aerobics of 1000 Mile Stare and Deadlock. Soft Spot in My Skull similarly starts with a punishing riff onslaught from Brodsky while Koller beats his Kit like it owes him money. Cageo gets the spotlight too in the sludgy intros to Bridgeburner and Reptilian Soul. But most of Bleeder settles into a driving mid tempo, giving Brodsky’s considerable vocal abilities and clever, sardonic lyrics the chance to take the wheel. It’s not really better or worse than Helium Head, just different, the band admirably stretching their style but not breaking it, accommodating the extended run time without copying or burning themselves out.
The album closing title track is the biggest departure, exhibiting a slow and brooding doom influenced chug under Brodsky’s tortured wails, ending the record on a decidedly somber note. If future detours from the Helium Head formula are conceived and executed this brilliantly then I absolutely cannot wait to hear what these guys do next. After these two releases they can do no wrong in my eyes.
Mutoid Man are currently out on the road and will hit Philly at the Underground Arts Black Box on August 14th.