I know it will be by now bugging the crap out of one third of The Mute Gods’ Nick Beggs, but this is his band’s first feature on Ave Noctum so the elephant-in-the-room of “Hey, It’s that guy from Kajagoogoo!” must once again be aired. Now it’s OK, it’s not the skunk-haired one from ‘Too Shy’, that was Limahl (and like Hard Rock/Metal fans can get away with criticizing hairstyles from the eighties!), it’s the talented bass player that stepped forward to sing on the follow-up ‘Big Apple’. The one with the dodgy beads in his hair (but again, Mr. Pot, is there anything you want to call Mr. Kettle…?). So with that out of the way (and with the dawning realization that my knowledge of Kajagoogoo may have finally stomped on any crumb of Metal credibility I was clinging on to…), I just need to give a final mention of how utterly cool Beggs now looks with his long hair. we can now move on. He looks every bit the Hard Rock/Metal musician, and musically what we have on offer here is some top drawer progressive rock with good occasional dashes of metal.

The other two thirds of the band are keyboardist Roger King (who Beggs had worked with in Steve Hackett’s band) and drummer Marco Minneman who has released a string of stuff as well as working with Steven Wilson and Joe Satriani. No shortage of talent on offer then, and anyone who heard last year’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” debut will already know there is no shortage of talent in the songwriting either! With this release the band are continuing to push their own progressive boundaries and styles with a plethora of moods to please progsters of every ilk. For instance there’s everything from the raw Devin Townsend edge to ‘Animal Army’, right the way through to echos of Porcupine Tree and even early Genesis on ‘Early Warning’ (featuring one of many examples of prominent fabulous bass-work by the way!).

Beggs has been a musician for many high profile bands over the years, and here he ably handles bass and guitar duties throughout, as well as the vocals. Ironically, whether this is due to his background or not, his vocals are at times what make The Mute Gods stand out from the crowd. His vocal delivery is quite 80’s pop in a way (in a good way, I promise!), and though varied, they focus many times on a soft melodious tone, almost like Tears For Fears for instance. A great example of how he mixes it up is on ‘We Can’t Carry On’, which blends a heavy, complex backing with this concentration on vocal melody. It’s a style many others who grew up in that time favour, but Beggs really has been experiencing it first hand for so long that it just seems to sound so natural.

All eras of Prog are covered on this album (Tardigrades are water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animals by the way…in case you were wondering…) – from the 70’s leanings of ‘The Singing Fish of Batticaloa’, through to the modern Metal-edged ‘The Dumbing Of The Stupid’ (and plenty in between) prog fans can rejoice! This is a musical vision realized by so many influences and experiences that the end result was always going to be a varied and ultimately pleasurable experience. It is an album that isn’t afraid to explore the instincts of the musicians involved and just see where they lead. The band heavy things up if the song leads that way, equally they mellow it out if not. They allow some parts to evolve and run, and curtail others, in the way prog always should excel at. It’s layered and diverse and it’s an album that isn’t pretending to be anyone else. The Mute Gods have their own sound which they are building on and diversifying, refusing to be pigeon-holed and keeping their options open. Surely that’s got to be better than an 80’s revival tour with Spandau Ballet, ABC and Howard Jones any day eh Nick?

(7.5/10 Andy Barker)