If you’re anything like me, you’ve have trouble sleeping at night for the last few months. Current events have made it hard to not be anxious and unsettled, and you feel like you’re just waiting for the next troubling allegation or headline. You’re constantly asking yourself, “Is this real life?”. And for you, being optimistic seems like naivete, and the more likely foreseeable outcome is mass destruction. It’s easy to feel like we’re due for some sort of self imposed cataclysmic event.
If you’re not looking for solace, but instead, looking for a prophetic soundtrack to the end times, look no further. The Mute Gods, a progressive rock project featuring Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Kajagoogoo, among others), Roger King (Hackett) and Marco Minneman (The Aristocrats, solo artist), are not here to sing you lullabies. The music was conceived as an attempt to reflect something more true to our present reality. Nick Beggs said, “This album asks people to take off their rose-tinted spectacles and consider the reality facing us. At this point in my career, I feel strongly that it’s important to use music as a vehicle for truth, not just feel-good entertainment.” The result is an album that is sardonic, acerbic, quirky, ephemeral, timely, scary, and beautiful all at once.
The opening track, “Saltatio Mortis” (Latin for ‘dance of death’), is a foreboding and dissonant march that leads well into the quirky but catchy pro-animal rights song, “Animal Army”. “We Can’t Carry On”, along with “The Dumbing of the Stupid”, represent the darker, heavier leanings of this album, with lyrics that are cynical and critical of our current political and social state. However, “Early Warning” is surprisingly gorgeous and haunting, with a lovely dissonant melody and lush, ethereal harmonies in both the vocals and the synth. “Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth” almost sounds like a Depeche Mode/Joy Division throwback, with Beggs’ crooning his wry apocalyptic observations (in a way that is both sinister and tongue-in-cheek) over a synth heavy new-wave-ish melody. This melodicism carries over into the catchy and haunting “Window Onto the Sun”.
“The Singing Fish of Batticaloa” is the longest song on the album, and definitely one of the most interesting tracks. Based on a really interesting story about “singing” fish in the Batticaloa Lagoon in Sri Lanka, the lyrics are an artistic interpretation of what the fish would be telling us if we could understand their communications (which, as it turns out, sound a bit like frogs croaking). Apart from the strange juxtaposition of a lovely, lush melody and lyrics about ashen bodies burning, there is a beautiful and haunting section near the end with a bed of synth and acoustic guitar that leaps into an exuberant return to the chorus. The song has a bit of a Steve Hackett vibe to it, which would make sense, considering that Beggs and King . The instrumental interlude, “The Andromeda Strain”, carries the listener to the mellow love song, “Stranger than Fiction”, which closes the album on an introspective, and even optimistic note.
While this album has some heavy moments (“The Dumbing of the Stupid”, “We Can’t Carry On”), I think the album can’t really be reduced down to simple phrases like “heavier” or “darker”. Yes, the subject matter is weighty and dark, and the album doesn’t shy away from creepy vibes or imagery, but regardless I think there is a quirky beauty and sardonic sense of humor that is present throughout, even in the heavier songs, which brings an almost Dr. Strangelove feel to the message. Beggs, an already intriguing figure, acts as a sort of 3rd person narrator to our inevitable demise, and does so with a mix of gloom and humor, that actually makes for a pleasant listen with some really beautiful and even touching moments. Or, maybe it could be that I am immune to the apocalyptic tones and imagery because I am a twisted person. If I am, I feel like I am in good company with Beggs and Co., and look forward to what the future holds for this brilliant collaborative effort between some truly exceptional musical minds.
tardigrades will inherit the earth (available through InsideOut) will be available for purchase on February 24, 2017. Preorder the album here.