THE MUTE GODS
Two years on from their sophomore album, The Mute Gods are back with a third full-length studio offering, 'Atheists and Believers'. Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson's bassist for the past eight years), remains the driving force behind the band, and is joined, once again, by Roger King (Steve Hackett's keys man) and drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann, who seems to be as ubiquitous and prolific as he ever has, turning up behind the kit all over the place. Apart from the songwriting, Beggs was responsible for all bass work, guitars, Chapman Stick, keys and vocals; King for keys, programming, guitars, backing vocals, production and mastering; and Minnemann for all drums and some additional guitars. Not to mention guest spots from Rush’s Alex Lifeson (a 12-string acoustic to open ‘One Day’, plus some mandola and ambient guitar in the same song); drummer Craig Blundell; multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend; and Lula Beggs, Nick’s daughter, providing some backing vocals.
The resulting music from all involved is another suite of innovatively imagined and reified songs; kind of pop-prog-rock at core, if you want a label to throw at it. Faint traces of Beggs’ Kajagoogoo background can still be heard for those familiar with ‘White Feathers’ and the like, which kind of colours some tracks with a poppy vibe; although it’s generally a refreshing musical outing through a forward-thinking, genuinely rather than generically progressive, set of compositions. And we’re talking first-class musicianship from the three main players. Virtuosity with an emotional essence, if you will. Beggs’ bass work is astounding; proving himself, yet again, to be one of the most talented guys ever to play the instrument. And his vocals are pretty nifty, too! Likewise for King’s keys and Minnemann’s sticksmanship.
As with its predecessor, lyrics unfold over ever-interesting and cognitively provocative narratives, messages, cautionary tales and stark forewarnings. Reflections on the current state of the world through contemplations of conspiracy theories and the Fermi Paradox (the title track, for example); parallels with then and now, with the cyclical nature of history repeating itself (‘Iridium Heart’… a deliberately unsettling piece of music); etc. etc. And more introspective pieces, such as ‘Old Men’ and the beautiful, closing instrumental piece, ‘I Think of You’. Beggs deals with various ruminations on the state of the world, both through metaphors and more direct didactics. Actually, the latter is perhaps not entirely true, as this feels more observational than didactic. It can be educational, for sure, and he offers up plenty to chew on, but it never comes across as preachy, or anything like that. ‘Twisted World Godless Universe’ also deserves special mention here. What a track! From its filmic opening and interludes and outro, and skilfully crafted core, it’s an epic eight and a half minutes. And ‘Knucklehed’ – phenomenal. A distinct 80s vibe about the track (the most prominent 80s number on the album)… before it transcends into some kind of weird jazzy interjections.
All in all, ‘Atheists and Believers’ is another refreshingly innovative outing for Beggs and co. It offers up something just that little bit different, but with enough familiar handles to remain accessible to a larger listening audience. And with a fantastic production and mix to boot, The Mute Gods have continued their journey with another great record, loaded with cognitively stirring discourse and fantastic music where, as I noted with ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth’ two years ago, it occupies that space where polemic meets aesthetic; an explosively potent melding of observational provocations and provocative art.
ATHEISTS AND BELIEVERS
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd March 2019
1) Atheists and Believers
2) One Day
4) Envy the Dead
5) Sonic Boom
6) Old Men
7) The House Where Love Once Lived
8) Iridium Heart
9) Twisted World Godless Universe
10) I Think of You
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a refreshing musical outing through a forward-thinking, genuinely rather than generically progressive, set of compositions. And we’re talking first-class musicianship from the three main players. Virtuosity with an emotional essence..."