France’s MolyBaron self-released their second album, The Mutiny, back in May and somebody at InsideOut Music liked it enough to pick it up for a formal release in late October. That’s a bit of a surprise, if you consider the label’s progressive music mission in light of the heavy alt-rock style of the band’s self-titled debut album. Indeed, if you go looking around the internet at all for info on Molybaron, you’re going to find references to Tool and System of a Down. Maybe that’s the kind of thing you like and maybe those connections led you straight to the band and you already know how cool they are. That’s awesome. You’re awesome. A lot of heavy metal fans, though, will see those tags and click on by indifferently. Hell, I probably would if I didn’t know better. And that’s a shame, because MolyBaron is absolutely more than a reflection of those bands. The tags are fair, mind you, they’re just incomplete enough to be misleading.
The songwriting is the other reason MolyBaron gets called a prog metal band and, more than anything else, it’s what makes The Mutiny such an enjoyable experience. Here’s a(nother?) caveat: if you listen closely, you’ll notice that a lot of the music on The Mutiny is made up of relatively straightforward bits. And here’s the upside: the way the elements are layered, stitched together, and interwoven yields fully engaged songs, strange and intriguing in as many ways as they are distantly familiar, like a Frankenstein’s monster making his way through the town center, smiling, tipping his hat, somehow more than an impossibly animated collection of your dead neighbors’ pieces.
MolyBaron, as a band, is tight. They execute the songwriting with precision and palpable energy. Lots of bands do that, though, right? Heavy sound, unique style, good songs, fine playing. If that’s all there, you’ve got yourself a good record. The Mutiny benefits mightily then from the dynamic vocals of Gary Kelly, an X-factor singer that elevates the good album to great. It’s not his voice alone, or even his amazing energy and style. Rather, it seems more likely that the combination infuses the performance of MolyBaron’s music with such vigor that it lifts each player above himself, the band reaching a new high achievable only as a unified whole.
There’s so much good on The Mutiny, from the wind-whipped gallop of “Amongst The Boys And The Dead Flowers” to the backlit binary drive of “Slave To The Algorithm” to the sinister twisting heave of “The Hand That Feeds You.” There’s also plenty of markers here that harken back to a time when heavy metal added the alt- branch that left a lasting schism in its wake, eventually (sometimes hastily) relegating so much of what metal fans loved to guilty pleasure status. Maybe it belongs there, justified as metal overreached its roots. Probably not. Not all of it anyway. Probably more likely that stubborn conservatism deprives the listener of new joy more often than it protects the old. I’ll admit to wrestling with this question as I decided whether to cover this album for this site and even as I tried to decide how much I really liked it.
Where I finally ended up was where I always end up when somebody smarter than myself reminds me: (most) rules about taste are stupid. It’s true everywhere but especially in music. Reaching this level of awareness and acceptance is liberating, opens up entire worlds of possibility. Funny thing is it’s really hard to see until you actually do it and look back. I know I wasted too much energy as a young pup worrying about whether my taste in music fit the mold. It’s okay to like things that aren’t cool. Man, it’s okay to like things your friends don’t like. I only more recently realized it’s also okay to like things you used to dislike. It’s even okay to like things that are like things you currently, actively, do not like! It’s okay, buddy. Like what you like.
After all, there’s really only one immutable rule in rock and roll and that is that it must, in one way or another, rock. And The Mutiny definitely does that.