by Alex Mullane
Every now and then a debut comes along that’s so brutally powerful, so technically astonishing and so brilliantly realised... just so thrillingly fresh that it will blow you away and leave you wondering how you ever listened to anything else and thought it exciting. Luxembourg outfit Mutiny On The Bounty’s ‘Danger Mouth’ was one such album. Their sound defined by an intricate and layered full-on math-rock attack, MotB were the perfect antidote to all the jangly, poppy indie reigning supreme at the time.
Well, they’ve been away for a while, but MotB are back with a slightly rejigged line-up – a new bassist and a new guitarist – and in their absence their sound has evolved into something a little less aggressive – and while it may not be a hundred percent successful – it’s no less interesting.
Mutiny on the Bounty were arguably always at their strongest on their instrumental tracks, letting the furious technicality of their playing shine through to the fore. At times the bellowed (often indecipherable) vocals merely distracted from that, and there are instances here where the same rings true. Conversely, however, there are also moments were the vocals and lyrics work better than ever before.
Album opener ‘North Korea’, complete with token intro track to aid the build-up, is an immediate wake-up to anyone who had forgotten the force of this band. Demonstrating one aspect of their evolved sound from the off – guitars tweaked with effects to make them sound almost like synths - the twinkling, high-end guitar-work is underpinned by the powerful, chunkier riffs of yore, and the effect is something akin to being bludgeoned in the face by a mace rolled in glitter.
When follow-up track ‘Artifacts’ kicks in with vocals, it’s almost a jarring disruption. Can’t we have more of the instrumental brilliance of the opener? But the more you listen, the more the songs with vocals get stuck in your head. While attempts at more conventional singing fall short – the band aren’t blessed with a great singing voice – the lyrics on the whole are more audible, and the band have cornered a niche in catchy repeated refrains (the closing mantra of ‘Statues’, for instance). There are hooks where before there were none, and if it’s jarring at first, as you delve deeper into the album, the vocals actually serve to enhance the experience (only in a few instances are they uninteresting enough to distract from the music and cause interest to wane, such as in the forgettable ‘Fiction’).
The highlights, though, remain the instrumental offerings, such as centre-piece ‘Myanmar’, which surges and weaves its way through to your core, and if the album sags in its final third, closing track ‘Mapping The Universe’ is a magnificent resurgence, highlighting the band at their most imperious. Possessing an unmistakable ‘Tubular Bells’ quality, it’s urgent and exciting and thunders to an almighty crescendo that’s expansive enough to justify that title.
Less aggressive than their first offering, ‘Trials’ shows a band that have perhaps matured in the time it’s taken them to release their follow-up. The inclusion of more graspable vocals and lyrics, and the development of synth-like guitar work give the band a more innovative feel, which helps them achieve the elusive feat of becoming more accessible without ever having to compromise their sound. Worth the entry price for the incredible instrumental book-enders (North Korea & Mapping the Universe), ‘Trials’ is an album that shows that one of the most exciting bands around have plenty more to offer going forward.