It’s a temperate, September Saturday evening in Chicago. I’m sitting inside of Big Mike’s Gyro, though I believe it’s no longer called that, and I also wasn’t eating a gyro. My car was getting ticketed, unbeknownst to me, and Mutoid Man is playing next door at Reggie’s Rock Club.
If you don’t know about Mutoid Man, you’re probably not listening to the right music. Their debut LP Bleeder (Sargent House) is one of the year’s best metal albums. Conceived by Cave In mastermind Stephen Brodsky and Converge drummer Ben Koller, Mutoid Man is a band that holds back nothing when it comes to punchy, heavy, riff-based metal music, and on stage they’re an even more unreckonable force than they are on record.
The show’s support came from two local groups, Czar and Space Blood, the latter of which I was completely unfamiliar with. Space Blood, musically, is a very exciting math rock duo. One bassist, one drummer, creating head-spinning music with odd time signatures and aggressive playing. Space Blood isn’t just about the music though; their performance is really what makes them unique. Donning strange masks; tight, low-cut shirts, and strange-patterned underwear, Space Blood is a band you have to experience in the live setting. From their pre-recorded in-between song dialog played straight from a tape recorder, to their ritualistic ceremony of giving select members of the audience shots of their own brand of Malort, Space Blood certainly knows how to stand out on a bill.
Czar are one of Chicago’s finest newer industrial acts, incorporating elements of black and sludge metal into their music. An incredibly heavy band who I’ve seen once before opening for Godflesh, so you know they’re worth checking out. Also a two-piece, Czar commanded the stage with no lights at all save for a visual projection coinciding with each song, though because Reggie’s doesn’t have a proper screen or solid back wall, they were hard to decipher at times. Still, the band delivered a solid set of their brand of one of Chicago’s best musical styles.
Around 10:00 or so, Mutoid Man took the stage — almost, that is. They set up all their gear, Koller and bassist Nick Cageao walked off stage and Brodsky was left by himself, jokingly stating, “Guess the band broke up!” just a few minutes before they came back to start their set. The band came right out of the gate with Bleeder opener, the aptly-titled ‘Bridgeburner,’ and immediately made the stage electric. Between Brodsky’s masterful guitar playing, Cageao’s speedy bass work, and Koller’s hardcore-influenced drumming style, Mutoid Man truly made every song as high energy as it could be, ripping through Bleeder cuts like ‘Sweet Ivy’ and ‘Dead Dreams’ and some of my favorite songs from the Helium Head EP, ‘Friday The 13/8’ and ‘Lost In The Hive.’ Brodsky and Cageao would often be picking away with one hand and flipping each other off with the other, the band as a whole constantly looking like they were having a blast both during and in between songs, making it super fun to watch.
Despite the lengthy careers of Brodsky and Koller, Mutoid Man as a group only has two proper releases under their belt. They decided to work in a couple of covers towards the end of the set, and two very different ones at that. Brodsky put his blues-influenced vocal style to use, starting off with an undeniably metal take on the Animals track ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ paying tribute to the late Nina Simone, and then following that up with a rendition of the Boss Battle theme from the video game Contra.
Before they closed out with Helium Head song ’Scavengers,’ Brodsky introduced Cageao and Koller as George Peterson and Edward Rooney respectively, appreciating their stay in Chicago by referencing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Cageao followed suit and referred to Brodsky as Abe Froman, The Sausage King Of Chicago, and the band left the stage as the crowd cheered them on for an encore. Returning for one final song, Mutoid Man got back to their instruments to shred through Helium Head opener ‘Gnarcissist’ before thanking the crowd and ending their set.
Though Mutoid Man finished their tour the next night in Philadelphia, I’m sure they’ll trek across the States again at some point, and if they do, make sure to check them out. One of the most badass rock shows you’ll get to see, and certainly one of my favorite shows I’ve seen so far this year.
Written by L. Mounts