Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth by The Mute GodsRelease date: February 24, 2017
Label: InsideOut Music
For those of you who don’t keep up with happenings in the micro-animal kingdom, tardigrades are minuscule creatures often known as water bears. Measuring no more than 1.5mm, they can only be seen through a microscope, but don’t let their size fool you as these creatures are rather adept at surviving extreme environmental conditions. They also have a starring role on the new album from The Mute Gods, Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth, hopefully cementing their place as prog rock’s favourite animal alongside camels and whales.
After a debut which thrust together prog rock with the innate pop sensibility that comes with bass player and frontman Nick Beggs previous roles with Steven Wilson and Kajagoogoo, this new album is something of a darker, heavier beast. More prog than its predecessor, the guitars are turned up to ten for a series of songs which get increasingly louder. Lyrically we are in concept album territory once again as Beggs envisions a world that’s losing its humanity and heading down into a ruined dystopia. That its so easy to make comparisons to the real world makes it that much more barbed and disconcerting.
After the orchestrally charged opener of ‘Saltatio Mortis’, Beggs unleashes a flurry of songs which carry rage and anger as their key themes. ‘Animal Army’ is full of bile only released by the sad desperation of ‘We Can’t Carry On’, the first of the album’s many moments of prog and pop combining to great effect. It’s powerful and more than matched by the political anger in ‘The Dumbing Of The Stupid’, which roars into action, all distorted guitars and vocals mirroring the incessant way that the media has created a vision of a post-truth world, all the time controlling your every fear and movement.
According to Beggs, he wanted this album to not shy away from what he sees as the truth. It’s a bleeding heart of an album with the intelligent and provoking lyrics cutting through. As ever he can’t stay away from a wonderful melody and whilst the album starts with a roar, ‘Early Warning’ wanders down a lovely acoustic route. It’s the calm before the storm that is the marvellous title track, a new wave screech of synths building into one of the great choruses. You will find yourself singing along to “the tardigrades will inherit the earth” with absolute seriousness and abandonment.
The second half of the album is a more measured affair with ‘Window Onto The Sun’ offering a moment of reflection. It’s a parable of what happens when you aim too high without taking into account the costs, but instead of being negative, Beggs asks that we remain hopeful. We may be drifting down the path of human destruction, but its never too late to learn and turn back. Indeed, the following ‘Lament’ allows for that reflection to pass us over us in a calm fashion. A beautiful acoustic instrumental, which prepares you for the third act.
Where the opening third of the album was all rage and anger, the final third starts with the beautiful ‘The Singing Fish Of Batticaloa’, a parable of progressive proportions whose bleak lyrics are matched by an almost religious fervour. ‘The Andromeda Strain’ follows revisiting some of the key musical motifs from the album before hope rears its head in ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, a song of immense yet quiet power. A song which lays bear the truth that if we simply care for each other, we may just get out if this alive.
In anyone else’s hands this whole concept would have failed badly. On paper it has all the traits that made prog rock such a parodied genre. In Beggs’ hands and through The Mute Gods, he creates a piece of work which at times is simply stunning. Repeated listens bear witness to even greater nuances whilst musically you’re in the hands of master craftsmen. That final tinkle of the piano as ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ leaves you with a feeling of hope and warmth, contrasting so strongly with the fear at the beginning. Like life, you have to live it and like those hardy perennials of the microscopic world, we may just have to toughen it out when times get rough.