‘Volition’ sees Mordred release their first new music (save for ‘The Baroness’, which was released as a stand-alone single back in 2015) since reforming back in 2013. This is significant because Mordred have released this, and their forthcoming new album, on the back of an Indiegogo campaign back in 2014. So, Mordred are showing us the fruits of six years' labour. Six years is a long time to gather ideas, refine them, and record them at your leisure. You'd hope that, after such a lengthy time spent in the studio, this EP would be a concise and flawless statement of intent.
I like Mordred. Like many, I was first introduced to the band via their video for the catchy (if retrospectively cringey) single ‘Every Day's a Holiday’. Their debut album was a mix of typical Bay Area thrash of the era, along with some mild experiments with funk (which was massive around this time) and a weird cover of ‘Super Freak’ by Rick James. But it was their second album, ‘In This Life’, where the band really came into their own sound. It was a brilliant mix of thrash and funk, with the amazing singles ‘Falling Away’ and ‘Esse Quam Videri’ showing how the two genres could sit side by side within the context of one band's artistic vision. The production was a bit sub-standard (it's very thin sounding), but the songs shone regardless. They followed it up with the EP ‘Vision’, which further refined their sound (and contains my favourite Mordred song; ‘West County Hospital’). However, things started to go wrong, and the band released their third album, ‘The Next Room’, without vocalist Scott Holderby. Alternative metal was reigning, and Mordred's sound was very much out of fashion. ‘The Next Room’ saw the band try and cope with this but, like so many of their contemporaries at the time, it just wasn't the same. And, so, Mordred disappeared.
Now, since 2013, the good news is that Scott is back. However, you wouldn't necessarily know it when you hear him. Gone is that Patton-esque nasal whine of before; replaced by a lower-register vocal that is more Sprechgesang than singing. Scott previously had a tendency to almost-rap his way through sections of some songs, so this isn't necessarily a revelation. However, his current delivery just doesn't gel particularly well with the mid-paced thrash of the music. In fact, it's quite the juxtaposition; not quite rap (because the phrasing is too loose for that) and certainly not traditional thrash barking. I can't say I like it. On ‘What Are We Coming To’, Scott introduces the use of a vocoder to give himself a T-Pain effect, over a badly constructed hip-hop tune, that just isn't done well; the epitome of filler, on an EP that is short and offers only 3 new songs anyway. The lyrics are painfully average; coming across like a privileged teenager trying to sound streetwise and politically informed.
This is an EP full of strange artistic choices which manages to sound incredibly disjointed and lacking in an overall cohesive vision. Mordred were well-known to incorporate a lot of influences in their earlier work, but there it always seemed wonderfully intuitive and flowed seamlessly. Here, it sounds like a tacked on after-thought; as if the band wanted to go back to their thrash roots, but kept the turntable scratches, faux-rapping, and funk to keep the fans happy. Ironically, these songs would have worked far better as contemporary thrash tracks. They still wouldn't have been worthy of the band reforming, but they would have been far more palatable. I guess, ultimately, Mordred are just prisoners of a time that's never coming back. The fascination with thrash-funk was short-lived to begin with (although I see Infectious Grooves are releasing new music this year, too) and it's unfortunate that Mordred are so ingrained and identified with that movement that they either stick with it and sound, as they do, desperately outdated or they move with the times, as they did with ‘The Next Room’, and become something so far away from the DNA of Mordred that they may as well be a different band. They seemingly can't win, and I feel sorry for them. The nostalgia was strong with this but, once the joy of reading that new music was coming had settled (six years is an awful long time to keep fans hanging), the reality of it is that Mordred's sound just isn't that great anymore.
Review by Steve Cowan
19th June 2020
1) No for You
2) What are We Coming To
3) Love of Money
4) The Baroness
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an EP full of strange artistic choices which manages to sound incredibly disjointed and lacking in an overall cohesive vision."