ARTIST: ROAD MUTANT
TITLE: BACK TO THE GREEN ZONE
WORDS: HARRY HIGGINSON
Road Mutant are some of the freshest blood in the UK’s Hardcore scene, having played their first ever show in late august at Upsurge Festival. Stylistically, the group feels something like a more metalcore-rooted iteration of a crossover thrash group like Iron Reagan or Power Trip, and you’d be surprised how new the group are considering the range of styles they showcase across ‘Back to The Green Zone’, their first studio recorded release.
Featuring members of other UKHC bands This is Colour and The Boy Will Drown, ‘Back to the Green Zone’ features some pretty hefty production credits, with recording and mixing handled by UKHC veteran Sam Thredder (Dead Swans, Hang the Bastard, TRC, More Than Life). Beyond that, Arthur Rizk has worked his magic on the mastering, and having worked with the likes of Candy, Mizery, Power Trip, Trapped Under Ice, Turnstile and Code Orange, this record sets itself a pretty high bar, just on the personnel that’s on board.
What’s a bit of a shame then, and honestly something of a surprise, is that the mixing just isn’t up to scratch. Sure, for a very first recording by a new band it’s pretty on par, but when the drums are this muddy, the guitars this inconsistently mixed, and the bass this absent, it’s hard not to bring up as a mark against the quality of the EP. Mixing aside, the performances on the record are pretty solid, with the vocals feeling especially reminiscent of a certain Riley Gale of Power Trip, which is no bad thing. There are inflections of a Phil Anselmo-esque swagger on opening track ‘March of the Road Mutants’, and compositionally this album borrows as much from 90s metalcore and groove metal as it does from the crossover titans of the 80s. The guitar work switches seamlessly from breakneck pace to headbanging grooves, drawing comparisons to a more retro take on Malevolence’s shred-gone-thrash-gone-sludge sound, and this opening track does pack a punch, with a combination of tight riffing and a memorable hook making it a standout track on this EP.
‘The Raid’ picks up the pace a little, lacking the memorability of the opening track slightly, but is still certainly a strong enough track, leaning a little more in to the thrash side of Road Mutant’s sound, and carrying it off admirably. The latter half is a slightly more mixed bag; ‘From the Dirt’ opts for a swaggering, more groove-based tempo that feels a little stagnant, closing out with a breakdown that in all of its brutality, does feel a little dated. EP closer, ‘Big Lizard Mosh Pit’ is probably the most eye-catching name in the track listing, although maybe not for all the right reasons. Instrumentally it’s fairly similar to the preceding track, opting for a groovier tone before reverting to thrashing speed in latter sections, but what really stands out here are the lyrics. Leaning with absurd comedy, they’re a little too random to necessarily stand up next to the more self-aware humour of an Iron Reagan or a Municipal Waste and ends up leaving the track feel like more of a gimmick song than a real rounded piece of crossover thrash.
“The guitar work switches seamlessly from breakneck pace to headbanging grooves”
Perhaps the biggest issue with this EP though, is a wider issue for a lot of crossover thrash bands. Whilst Road Mutant’s attempts to bring together crossover with some groovier elements, alongside the metallic inflections of modern hardcore, the band fail to really carve out a definitive sound across these first four tracks. Whilst there is some potential here, with some decent song writing, technically tight performances and a genuine banger of an opening track, a combination of surprisingly lacklustre production and a couple of more forgettable tracks leave this debut release just another ‘pretty good’ EP in a subgenre already populated by anonymous but decent metal records.