My favorite debut album last year was “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” by the new prog rock act THE MUTE GODS, as mentioned in our “2016 in Metal” blog post, and therefore I was delighted to find out that their sophomore effort would arrive in February 2017 already. I was surprised that Nick Beggs, Roger King, and Marco Minnemann had had enough time to make another album so soon amidst their duties in the backing bands of Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, and Joe Satriani, but luckily recording is extremely convenient nowadays.
The familiar box-headed figure from the debut – which seems to be TMG‘s own Eddie or Rattlehead – adorns the cover once more, but “Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth” is a darker and heavier album than its predecessor, both lyrically and musically. You won’t hear a whole lot of personal reflections in vein of “Nightschool for Idiots” this time around, as the songs revolve around politics, nature, media, and religion, even more so than the debut. Exhibit A of this darker approach is “Animal Army,” whose rhythmic riffage must’ve taken a leaf out of Steven Wilson‘s book, as it’s slightly reminiscent of “Home Invasion” from 2015’s “Hand. Cannot. Erase.,” on which Beggs and Minnemann were the rhythm section. The “dark vs. light” contrasts are fairly Wilson-esque too, and I can hear some PORCUPINE TREE in the catchiness of “Window onto the Sun” and the riffs of “The Dumbing of the Stupid,” although the latter gets more shreddy and jazzy than your typical PT song. The songs that stick out to me the most are the title track, with its ’80s MARILLION-meets-alt rock’ vibe and “Early Warning,” which has got some cool bass playing and a wintry feel. The gentle “Stranger than Fiction” – written for Beggs‘ wife – is a break from the societal themes and closes the album optimistically, feeling like a sequel to last album’s “Father, Daughter.” However, there’s one filler track, and that’s “The Singing Fish of Batticaloa,” which lulls a little too long during the quiet respite in the middle and doesn’t measure up to the other mellow songs.
The musicianship is great, even if it’s hard to tell who’s playing what on each song, since the guitars are handled by all three members, and both King and Beggs contribute keyboards. However, as the mastermind, bassist and vocalist Nick Beggs is naturally the most crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Besides his typical pristine and high-pitched singing, he spits the lyrics of “We Can’t Carry On” in an accusatory tone, utilizes a dramatic, almost MUSE-style voice on “The Dumbing of the Stupid,” while delivering the title-track in a crooning fashion. I can’t believe this guy has only been a backing vocalist for the majority of his career! Minnemann‘s drumming throughout the album is remarkable – he can bash the skins like they owe him money, but can also play in a very relaxed manner. However, the King-penned cinematic intro, “Saltatio Mortis” and the melodic Chapman Stick instrumental “Lament,” prove that THE MUTE GODS are capable of minimalism as well. Beggs‘ pop background also ensures that the album is full of great hooks and that the instrumentation side doesn’t take over completely. THE MUTE GODS have managed to build on the strengths of their debut, and “Tardigrades…” is a successful step forward with a powerful message.
Written by Wille Karttunen
- Saltatio Mortis
- Animal Army
- We Can’t Carry On
- The Dumbing of the Stupid
- Early Warning
- Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
- Window onto the Sun
- The Singing Fish of Batticaloa
- The Andromeda Stain
- Stranger than Fiction
Nick Beggs – bass, guitars, vocals, Chapman stick
Roger King – keyboards
Marco Minnemann – drums, guitars, sound modelling