The dance of death (Saltatio Mortis, Track 1) casts an ominous, foreboding shadow over the future of the human race. Roger King’s menacing funeral march for humanity is a ghastly premonition which sets an urgent and anxious tone for what follows on this second release from The Mute Gods. Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth effortlessly carries on from their disconcerting 2016 debut album Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me but this time explores the tormenting and disturbing questions of personal and social responsibility with much greater ferocity and bite.
The album is brutally uncompromising: it plucks common place examples and experiences from everyday life and holds them up for a withering, critical examination which exposes the sheer folly and absurdity of the present course on which we find ourselves. Individually each case may be easy to minimise or dismiss; collectively, however, they provide ample and damning evidence for the predicament which confronts us.
Taking the album as a collective whole which builds a cascading momentum as it progresses is exactly the way to experience what is being offered. Nick Beggs unapologetically believes that “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”. Beggs is convinced he is not alone in worrying over the profound plight created by our propensity for self destruction and whilst it may not make for easy or even comfortable listening, taking these songs as a montage of seemingly diverse yet interconnected experiences certainly gives the album added poignancy and force.
The opening six tracks are an unforgiving lyrical and musical onslaught, the music powerful, discordant, relentless, driven by lyrics which are intense, piercing and almost overwhelming. Having featured a number of guest musicians on the first album, the band took the deliberate decision to record Tardigrades with just the core members. The difference is immediately noticeable. There is a more cohesive feel to the playing, a cutting intensity born of greater consistency and a decisive clarity which enhances and underscores the aggression and turbulence of the soundscapes.
We are presented with the prophecy of nature rising up and reclaiming the earth we have stolen (Animal Army, Track 2), the casual distractions and deflecting escapisms of the media (The Dumbing of Stupid, Track 4), the small, seemingly insignificant things which indicate warnings of worse things to come (Early Warning, Track 5) and the as yet unknown and unintended consequences of the ever expanding rise of science and technology in all aspects of our lives (Window Onto the Sun, Track7).
But then something suddenly unexpected intrudes into the lyrical menace and the musical muscle which has been building such an impressive and seemingly unstoppable head of steam. A gap appears in the over-cast clouds in the form of Lament (Track 8), a gentle, lilting reverie of peaceful reflection and bewildered hope like shafts of sunlight piercing the gloom. The effect is utterly transforming and literally stops you in your tracks just at the point when you felt you would be engulfed and overpowered.
It also marks a noticeable turning point. Whilst the remaining four songs continue with the same pace and thematic intensity, these tracks seem to be musically lighter, less ferocious, invitingly melodic and more welcoming of a calmer, contemplative response to the problems being considered. Indeed, it feels akin to a reprieve, a welcome relief from the bludgeoning discord and conflict which has come before.
An olive branch to hope is offered in the closing track Stranger than Fiction, a song written by Beggs for his wife. It is a solitary candle amidst the winds of despair and madness which surround us which dares to believe that if love can indeed be found in the depths of immanent crisis and disaster, then maybe, just maybe, there is the faintest sliver of hope for us yet. With love comes meaning and the chance to build something that is of worth and value.
Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth is an explosive, arresting album which exudes a disarming passion and thorny menace in music which is vigorous, compelling and forcible. I am largely sympathetic to Beggs’ mission and the message he seeks to convey. I worry, however, that in making music a ‘vehicle for truth’ it perhaps runs the danger of having exactly the opposite effect. I often turn to music precisely to escape the awfulness of the world, the ghastliness of the news and the feeling of gloom about our future. The last thing I want is for the music to which I listen to take me straight back there again, no matter how good it is.
There will be times when I simply will not be able to bring myself to listen to this album. This is not in any way a slight or a criticism; rather, it speaks volumes about a job which has been very well done in portraying the painful realities of the times in which we live.
Saltatio Mortis (01:57)
Animal Army (05:00)
We Can’t Carry On (05:11)
The Dumbing Of The Stupid (07:09)
Early Warning (03:56)
Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth (05:20)
Window Onto The Sun (06:00)
The Singing Fish Of Batticaloa (08:24)
The Andromeda Strain (02:57)
Stranger Than Fiction (04:21)
Nick Beggs – string basses, guitars, Chapman Stick, programming, keyboards and vocals
Roger King – keyboards, programming, guitars, backing vocals, production and mastering
Marco Minnemann – drums, additional guitars
Guests on the album:
Lula Beggs – backing vocals
Lauren King – backing vocals
Label: Inside Out Music
24th February 2017
Format: Standard Edition CD, Deluxe Edition CD with extra tracks, vinyl