‘Why do we lend so much of ourselves to a broken plan? Why do we live ever bending, ever breaking?’ (Tethered)
North Carolina’s Mutant Strain return with their second full-length release and things have gotten, if that were possible, even more intense. A well-drilled rhythm section locks into a strident groove, while the guitars unfurl dense, relentless waves of riffage, and manically rasped, but not unnuanced, vocals impart a sense of breathlessly unhinged chaos. The emphasis here is on compressed, explosive speed, but not at the expense of properly crafted songwriting. Songs seep into each other whilst each retaining their own distinctive shape, from the visceral gut-punch of Carolinian Jawbreaker to the more expansive, infectious eruption of Words Fall.
Like their self-titled debut from 2020, Mutant Strain’s second album, Murder of Crows, is a hardcore tsunami. Mutant Strain’s songs are so intense and delivered at such inhumanly fast tempos you’ll spend your first few listens to Murder of Crows scooping your jaw off the floor and locating your newly missing teeth. But speed and volume aren’t the entire story. Much of Mutant Strain’s explosiveness comes from the density of their songs, each of which seems to cram a full album’s worth of music into a highly compressed thrill ride. The riffs never stop moving, careening like subatomic particles around an unstable uranium isotope. But while Mutant Strain flirts with the edge of meltdown, the formidable rhythm section always stays locked into the groove. That’s why, unlike most bands that play at these speeds, at their gigs, the crowd doesn’t stand around waiting for the breakdown (also because there are no breakdowns). Mutant Strain’s shows look like Hieronymus Bosch paintings: piles of writhing, possessed bodies with vocalist Maryssa hovering over the chaos like a demonic overlord. Murder of Crows is bathed in that same ecstatic energy, so turn it up loud and hang on tight.
Like Mutant Strain’s first album, the vinyl edition of Murder of Crows offers a wealth of visual stimulation to match the aural assault, including front and back cover illustrations by Jack Sabbat, a double-sided poster insert, illustrated lyric booklet, and other fun surprises.