I bet you’ve never thought of combining metal with spoken word and poetry. Have you? Well, now is the time to imagine just that as Caerphilly’s Mudlark merge these two seemingly alien concepts with consummate, brilliant ease.
The quintet of vocalist Luke, guitarists Wes and Ben, bassist Nick and drummer Jac grew up together in the town of Bedwas in South Wales. They’ve played in metal bands since they were teenagers, but added the spoken word element inspired by the likes of Slint and 36 Crazyfists as well as Luke’s love for hip-hop and poetry.
As Ben explains: “We were lucky that most of our friends at school were also musicians, so forming bands and writing music has always been something that we’ve done together. Mudlark was formed roughly four years ago and was particularly exciting as some us hadn’t played together for a long time and some of us hadn’t played together at all.
“As time’s gone by the band has become more and more important to us, rehearsal is often the only time we get to catch up with each other and our live shows have become a sort of meeting place for our wider friendship circle. It’s true that as you get older you can devote less time to being in a band, but it’s also true that the music you create gets more defined and more mature, that’s what keeps it interesting and keeps us motivated.”
Mudlark released their latest EP Canvas a couple of months ago and well, we call it an EP, but there are only two songs on it – although one is an epic 11 minutes long. On the EP, Ben tells us: “We’re blessed to have friends who really dig what we do and a bunch of them have given us really positive feedback about the EP. A lot of what they’ve said has mirrored the way we feel about the record, it’s definitely the best thing we’ve recorded.
“Stare at the Sun has been a favourite in our live set for a while now, it’s over 11 minutes long, it’s bludgeoning, idiosyncratic, it’s gratuitously progressive and it sucks. Death Lessons is the antithesis, it’s measured, melancholic, poetic and emotionally-heavy as opposed to riff-heavy.”
As mentioned, opening track Stare At The Sun comes in at more than 11 minutes long, kicking off with drawn-out low-tuned guitar chords and cymbal hits that set a sombre opening backdrop. Distant spoken word vocals come in over it, then a little guitar riff feeds into a smash of guitars and driving drums that are soon followed by an onslaught of screamed vocals. That’s followed by an awesome metal breakdown of cool guitars that continue under another blitz of screamed vocals and intensify with piercing high-pitched guitars.
That repeats then, around the 5-minute mark, switches up with a new blitz of rolling guitars that are countered by drawn-out chords, then a wild burst of fast-paced riffs under big screams. A lone rolling riff jumps in, soon joined by crazed high-pitched guitar noise and driving drums before dropping into laid-back guitars under more screamed vocals.
Suddenly the pace drops right down with clean laid-back guitars and a chilled out guitar lick under spoken word vocals. That continues for a while into repeats of sung vocals “You can take me anywhere, I won’t care,” which ends suddenly with huge throat destroying screams over drawn-out guitar chords and cymbal hits that bring the track to a huge ending. This is an absolute epic.
The other track on the EP is Death Lessons, which opens up with a light guitar lick, a little drum roll then drums kick in under the guitar that feeds into a spoken verse. Screamed vocals join the party as the guitars intensify a little, then another spoken section is blown away by an almighty blitz of huge screams and a wall of guitars along with a funky wandering bassline. High-pitched guitars come in alongside driving drums as the screamed vocals prolong, through to a calmer ending of laid-back guitars.
On Death Lessons, Ben tells us: “This has to be the best track we’ve written, it’s definitely the closest we’ve come to realising our sound. It works really well with the music video we made for it too; we reedited an old B-movie that touches on the same kind of themes: love, loss and regret.”
You can check out that video here:
The combination of metal and spoken word is obviously pretty unique, but Mudlark combine the two mediums with surprising ease. On their style of music, Ben expands: “This is a difficult question to answer because we aren’t really sure ourselves. Our sound doesn’t really fit neatly into any genre or subgenre, we’re a bit weird. Mudlark is probably best described as melancholic, progressive alt-metal. We take an old-school approach when recording music, we track the instruments live and capture vocals afterwards. Recording in this way has its pros and cons, but there’s definitely an energy in our recordings that we couldn’t have captured any other way.”
Lyrically, they focus on all the ‘bad themes,’ from depression and anxiety through to alcoholism. As Ben puts it: “We like to think that our music conveys hope alongside these themes, that it can be cathartic and therapeutic, but we’re sure to most people it just sounds pretty bleak.”
The EP was recorded quickly at the start of the year, ahead of Nick moving to China to live with his girlfriend in February. As a result, they’re now on the lookout for a new bass player while writing new music without one. As Ben tells us: “We like to keep things fresh and moving forward. The new stuff is sounding very interesting, we’re tapping into the post-metal/rock vibe that we’ve wanted to explore for a while now. If all goes well, we’ll be gigging a brand new set by the end of the year.”