March 18, 2019 The Mute Gods – Atheists and Believers (Album Review)
Many of its fans relegate Progressive Rock to its heyday in the early 1970s, as represented by the genre’s usual heavyweights such as Yes (“The Revealing Science of God”), King Crimson (“Sailor’s Tale”), Van der Graaf Generator (“A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers”), and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (“Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman”). With due respect to these pioneers, the genre—just like any other established style of music—did not die. It may have simply lost its place in the mainstream sector of Rock music, but it has remained firm and flourishing albeit only in the fringes under the sidelights.
For instance, continuing in the 2000s, Progressive Rock gets to be represented by newer bands like The Dear Hunter (“A Night on the Town”), Coheed and Cambria (“The Light & the Glass”), Sky Architect (“Woodcutters Vile”), and Transatlantic (“Duel with the Devil”). Then, of course, there are The Mute Gods who return on Friday, March 22nd with their latest album, Atheists and Believers, via Inside Out Music.
Formed in 2014, in Buckinghamshire, England, by Nick Beggs (of Kajagoogoo; bass guitars, Chapman Stick, guitars, vocals) with Roger King (Steve Hackett’s band; keyboards) and Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats; drums, guitars), The Mute Gods have so far released a couple of studio albums, 2016’s Pop Rock-oriented Do Nothing till You Hear from Me (“Praying to a Mute God”) and 2017’s Industrial-sounding Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth (“We Can’t Carry On”). Only two years after this last offering, the trio are ready to unleash their third opus.
Atheists and Believers, The Mute Gods’ third overall album, is a return to the melodically engaging predisposition of their debut. It opens with the grating and galloping coolness of the synth-drench title track. This is followed by the bluesy, classic, mellotron-flavored Prog sound of “One Day,” which features Drummer Alex Lifeson of Rush; it brilliantly mixes ’90s Alternative Rock/Grunge in the veins of Alice in Chains (“I Stay Away”) and Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun”) with the Celtic/Appalachian Folk of Beggs’s previous band Iona (“Bird of Heaven”). The mood then turns light, groove-based, and dancey with the jangly “Knucklehead”—a sure album highlight.
The rocker “Envy the Dead” and the instrumental “Sonic Boom” are a change of style and pace—delving into the dark, sinister, and ominous realm of Metal but with a glaze of jazzy tendencies. After this couple of rockin’ stompers, The Mute Gods then take the listener to somewhere quiet and calm, as they pluck their way into the rustic and twilight balladry of “Old Men.” The slow and sad sentiments seep into the ensuing “The House Where Love Once Lived,” whose syncopated rhythm is enough to balance the simple sway of the track.
“Iridium Heart” is another standout; iridescent, glowing, progressive, swelling, pulsating, it has the ’80s-era Rush influences all over it. The penultimate track, “Twisted World, Godless Universe” sounds like a remnant from the album’s predecessor—Industrial, cinematic, building up from an orchestration of synth and strings and then exploding into a proper Glam Rock spectacle.
Finally, The Mute Gods wrap up Atheists and Believers aptly with the heartrending, chilling, instrumental, piano-oriented ballad “I Think of You,” which exudes faint echoes of those out-of-this-world J-Pop Final Fantasy tunes.
Beggs may have started his music career with the New Wave/Art Rock–associated groups Art Noveau (“Monochromatic”) and Kajagoogoo (“Too Shy”), but his musical trajectory is far and broad, transitioning to a more progressive and exotic predisposition; joining the Celtic collective Iona and then Steve Wilson’s and Steve Hackett’s bands, respectively. Ultimately, The Mute Gods become the vehicle of his mélange of sonic influences, and Atheists and Believers is another testament of Beggs’s ability to marry melody and technicality and balance Pop with Rock sensibilities. Cryptic Rock gives Atheists and Believers 4 out of 5 stars.