By Mum Locked In Castle
Mum Locked In Castle's 'Vultures' EP kicks off with a song of two halves. The first half of 'Volta! Volta!' is scarily professional-sounding, buzzy rock that blends an unlikely combination of hardcore and experimental elements. While it won't have you scratching your head in confusion, 'Volta! Volta!' is distinctly difficult to categorise. For people who like their music a little bit different, MLIC have plenty to offer.
The quirky chorus treads a perfect line between accessibility, and hardcore brutality, with gang screeches of 'Volta! Volta!' ricocheting off frontman Ben's resonating, and oddly soulful, vocals. Pulsing riffs accompany the gang vocals, giving them extra bite and ensuring they'll stick in your brain like shrapnel.
'Volta! Volta!' offers up more briefly nasty moments, with the occasional combination of growled vocals and grating riffs. It's these nods towards a more abrasive, hardcore sound that'll win MLIC favour with those who like their music heavier, but not tuneless.
However, 'Volta! Volta!' begins to lose momentum after the midway point. The breakdown section is less powerful than you'd expect following such a strong first-half showing. This is largely due to a very neat, but distinctly plodding, drumbeat that leaches away some of the breakdown's mosh-pit-fuelling energy.
The hitching drumbeat continues throughout the rest of the song. So, as MLIC lead us through passages of fluttery strumming and epic, crashing riffs, all you'll be able to hear is that metronome drumbeat.
Second track 'Vermont' bounces some seriously tinny, rattling chords off of huge, sawing riffs. By forcing experimental flourishes and heaviness together, MLIC once again deliver something that keeps within recognisable boundaries, but doesn't slavishly repeat what's already been done before.
Ben's vocals carry easily above both the metallic chords and the big riffs. Although his smooth, melodic voice isn't one you'd usually associate with rock/hardcore/prog mash-ups, this actually works in MLIC's favour by keeping them just that little bit off-centre from any one genre.
However, once again MLIC over-complicate things towards the end. This time, they mesh the tinny chords and heavy riffs together in a last minute blowout that makes for messy listening. Still, last minute misjudgements aside, 'Vermont' is another track of hook-packed rock with the occasional oddball flourish.
'The Griffin' boasts a chorus of hardcore-inspired vocals and crunchy riffs that resembles the best parts of 'Volta! Volta!' However, the verses are much too long. Amongst their numerous musical sections, is frequent groovy, laidback interludes that kill the song's momentum. You'll be grateful whenever that chorus kicks in and marks a return to an angrier, more intense sound.
True to form, MLIC indulge their experimental flair towards the end of 'The Griffin.' Thankfully, this time we get galloping drums, chugging riffs and screamed lyrics, ensuring that 'The Griffin' ends on a tight, furious high.
Title-track 'Vultures' lurches through a mish-mash of musical styles. While the first listen may feel like groping your way through a maze, there are plenty of hooks crammed into its many complex twists and turns. By the time 'Vultures' draws to a close, enough material will be stuck in your head, to ensure you'll be hitting the repeat button. MLIC really do have a talent for penning long, rambling and complex songs that are actually remarkably catchy.
Central to 'Vultures's success, is the interaction between a passage of twitchy guitars and quick-footed vocal patter, and bursts of scuzzy riffs and deathcore-aping vocals. While the strained deathcore vocals may not give Bring Me The Horizon a run for their money, the lurch between these two contrasting styles is addictive.
Of course, there are the obligatory last minute detours, and these make 'Vultures' feel seriously overlong and too loosely constructed. While its wanderings may always be interesting and executed with flair, cutting them from the song might have made it feel more coherent and, listening to 'Vultures' for the very first time, you'd have at least some inkling of where it was going.
'Climate of Liberation' captures MLIC at their heaviest, as they serve up juddering, machine-gun riffs and huge, scuzzy breakdowns.
However, once again MLIC refuse to take the obvious route, and sudden laidback, funky melodies keep cropping up throughout the song. But, this actually works in 'Climate of Liberation's favour, allowing the listener a chance to surface for air before MLIC plunges them back into that scuzzy, serrated heaviness.
'Climate of Liberation' also features some spoken lyrics and, while there's something essentially cheesy about voiceovers in songs, MLIC counter this lurking naffness with some nasty riffs and single-minded, marching drumbeats that makes for dark listening indeed. And things only get heavier, as snarls replace the voiceover, and MLIC crack out the warring riffs for a dramatic, metal finale.
'Tales...' lurches quirkily between verses of twangy guitar-picking and heavier choruses. Once again, they serve up a piece of oddness that everyone can enjoy, not just those with a passion for the unusual.
Post-bridge, MLIC sling all of this song's different parts together, and it's no surprise that the result is a messy, incoherent jumble that's difficult to wrap your ears around. At this point, Ben also seems to be singing an entirely different song to what the rest of the band are playing. Thankfully, this is a brief blip, and MLIC quickly get back on track.
The main body of 'Tales...' has barely expired in a whine of static before those twangy, tinny chords start up again, leading us through various self-indulgent musical flourishes where the chords speed up, then slow down, then speed up again. While it's all very technically and artistically interesting, no-one wants to listen to three and a half minutes of what basically amounts to someone faffing about with an acoustic guitar.
And then there's the hidden song, which boosts track seven's running time past the fourteen minute mark. However, unlike the acoustic ending of 'Tales...' this unnamed extra is a welcome inclusion. MLIC layer on galloping drums, disgustedly spat vocals, and walls of under-produced, buzzy-edged punk riffs, swiftly building to a climax of screeching chords and frenzied, intricate riffs that are guaranteed to get the blood pumping.
This song should probably have been given its own place on the track listing. It brings the EP to a fun and energetic confusion, but battling through three and a half minutes of acoustic guitar just to get to it, means that it's not going to get played half as much as it should.
MLIC is an impressive effort. Even when they're wandering off on ill-advised tangents, MLIC's inventiveness and musical ability stops you from becoming bored, even though you'll suspect you probably should be. MLIC won't find an easy fanbase, refusing as they do to slot neatly into one genre, while never emphasising their experimental leanings. But, give this EP a chance, and you'll probably be surprised by how much you like it.