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Mutation
Error 500 JR Moores , November 20th, 2013 07:55

Cast your mind back to November 1997. British subjects were mourning a dead princess they had never really known. Many clung to the hope of a bright new future under the recently elected Blair/Campbell/D:Ream regime. Thousands of people were yet to donate their copy of Be Here Now to Oxfam. Kerrang! magazine's circulation was in freefall. Radio 1 had no specialist rock show. The heaviest thing most people heard was the Ocean Colour Scene riff that accompanied Sharleen Spiteri's humiliating traipse to Chris Evans' interview desk every Friday.

It was in this climate that amiable Geordie Britrockers The Wildhearts released one of the nastiest, scuzziest, weirdest, most traumatic "rock" records ever committed to tape. Contradicting the sentiment of their 1996 single 'Sick of Drugs', Endless, Nameless was recorded in the midst of colossal substance problems, responsible also for a string of shambolic gigs and the band's split on the eve of the album's release. According to singer Ginger, to combat the disunity caused by different members' disparate drug preferences (from pot through crack to heroin), the band all took whizz. When that failed to secure a cohesive plain of consciousness, they resorted to speedballs. That they managed to produce anything in this wired state might be a miracle, but it helps explain why the end product sounded so manically warped. From the opening screeching fuzz-f**k of 'Junkenstein' to the bizarre closing trip-hop-turned-lighter-waving-sing-along-with-words-you-don't-wanna-sing-along-to number ("And with the world in his ass / Ba-ba-ba-ba..."), Endless, Nameless is an immaculately glorious mess. It would have been the noisiest, ugliest, maddest record to ever penetrate the top 40 had it not, in typical underachieving Wildhearts fashion, peaked at No. 41. It would have been the greatest final album of all time, the perfect sonic encapsulation of drug-addled disintegration, had The Wildhearts not reformed a few years later and regressed to riff-driven pop songs.

Error 500 is something of a spiritual sequel to Endless, Nameless, in that it is easily the heaviest thing Ginger has produced in sixteen long years. A vivacious post-grindcore melting pot with contributions from the credible likes of Merzbow, Mark E. Smith, and Shane Embury of Napalm Death, Mutation are being marketed as a supergroup. I suspect the prolific, ambitious Ginger is the real driving force (along with his ex-Cardiacs cohort Jon Poole) and the spotlight's being manipulated because The Wildhearts nowadays, like their contemporaries Therapy?, can arouse unjust titters from snobbish circles.

Pounding opener 'Bracken' begs the question "why aren't there more metal songs about bracken?" That wiry fern, lying dark and wild upon the cold, bleak moors, silent witness to the slow grinding of stone into dust by the unsentimental elements; the starvation and decay of a lowly ewe lost from the herd and broke of leg; the occasional unspeakable human burial. The phonetic structure of the two-syllable word itself, with that harsh middling "ck" sound and abrupt concluding "n", how it yearns to be throatily grunted.

When The Fall flirted with metal on 2011's 'Greenway' they sounded insincerely ironic. Smith first rears his gummy head on the fractured electro-experiment 'Mutations', but it's 'Relentless Confliction' that perfectly solders Mark Smith to metal. From a tornado of blast-beats, phat riffs and twisted noise passages, "Your shoe-lac-es aaare bleedin'!" he gargles accusingly, as if suffering a bad trip in the middle of Footlocker. "Gaaaar-gan-tuan boots club out into impossible mountainsss". Still no idea what he's on about. Still bloody genius.

Unlike the harrowing Endless, Nameless, and indeed unlike most frowning, grouchy, macho metal, Error 500 is refreshingly fun, bouncy, and playful. All the grindcore rhythm sections in the world couldn't suppress Ginger's love (and talent) for catchy melodies. Thus, 'Utopia Syndrome' boasts jauntily tuneful verses, albeit with disheartened, bipolarish lyrics: "Tiny things that I'm appreciating / Every day turn into fucking monsters". The epically pummelling 'White Leg' and its even pummelling-lier sequel 'Sun Of White Leg' are like Cannibal Corpse hurling televisions out of Super Furry Animals' hotel window while Killing Joke molest Sparks in the bathroom.

Mike Patton's Ipecac label is the natural home for Mutation, for there is an undeniable Mr Bungle-iness to their splintered, experimental metal. Head Chef Ginger prevents the stylistic schizophrenia from spilling into repellent wackiness and even after allowing several cooks to add their respective spices, he serves a remarkably substantial and rewarding broth. The only misstep is the penultimate 'Innocentes In Morte' which reeks too potently of the early noughties mathcore craze.

Once again Ginger has created exactly the kind of deranged and barely-precedented opus that the world needs right now. Once again the world will stick its fingers in its ears and flee towards the cosy altar of Jools Holland. But once again will be a small, select few who will clasp this record to their bonkersness-susceptible hearts for the next sixteen years and beyond.

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