So, The Mute Gods are releasing yet another album. If you’ve followed this site for the last few years, you know my divided opinion of the last two albums. “Atheists and Believers” launches on the 22nd of March through Inside Out Music. Is it any better than the first two? That’s a very good question. Read on to test my thoughts on this.
The Mute Gods could be called a supergroup. The lineup still includes Roger King on keyboards, guitar, orchestration, and programming; Nick Beggs on bass, guitar, keyboards, VariAxe, didgeridoo, and lead vocals; and Marco Minnemann on drums. This time around, you’ll also hear guest performances from: Alex Lifeson on guitar, Craig Blundell on drums, Rob Townsend on sax and duduk, and Lula Beggs on vocals.
Musically, TMG fall somewhere in the progressive rock spectrum, although they’d be right near the edge of pop rock, too. Yes, there are some progressive tendencies, but anyone looking for something particularly weighty to ingest is better looking elsewhere. I will say, though, that this album has more bite than the last two, and I think that may be because the guitar tone is a bit stronger overall, and there is a wider variety of instruments and tones. In general, though, TMG just doesn’t offer music that is all that unique or that stands out from the pack. The performances, as expected, are always strong, though. These musicians know how to play; but, in the end, this project has always been a mere vehicle for Nick’s obsession with evangelical atheism, and so the music seems to come second oftentimes.
Though the music seems to be second to the message, I will say that Nick’s bass is the best he’s given us in this project. The bass lines are clear, well mixed, and have personality; as I know Nick is perfectly capable of offering on a consistent basis since I consider him to be one of the best bassists alive. Marco’s drums are also of note here, having plenty of oomph and thunder, and the guest spots are all really well produced and sound amazing.
When writing about an album from TMG, you cannot ignore the lyrics, and I don’t think Nick would want me to, either. Thematically, I will say that this album is gentler and more on point than the other two albums. Nick’s focus here is more on the train wreck that he sees in the future for humanity; or, perhaps, the catastrophe that is already underway but that few can see. One thing I appreciate about this album over the others, however, is that Nick often includes himself in his own critique of human nature. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but that actually shows maturity on this part. Nick also has written more about various other topics, including love, his mother, and growing old (or young). This variety makes the album much less of a slog to hear than the last couple albums, and the militant atheistic tendencies (which I consider just as annoying as militant religiosity), especially of the debut, are much more subtle and balanced here.
The songs may also be a bit more memorable on this offering, though I remember some of them more for their lyrical themes than for their musicality. For instance, “Knucklehed” starts with lots of promise, like a late 80s or early 90s synth ballad, but the chorus is a real letdown. However, the notion that all humans, even Nick, are knuckleheads is a welcome one, and I find common ground there with the writing. Another example would be “Envy the Dead”, an interesting track that examines people who would rather just die than roll up their sleeves to work on the world. “The House Where Love Once Lived” is my favorite song thematically. It’s a celebration of Nick’s happiness with his family in the house they occupy, and so the song is from the perspective of people who might live there in the future. Another interesting one, “Twisted World Godless Universe” is actually about the inner struggle Nick has between faith and disbelief. I’m quite impressed by his honesty here, and I hope he knows that most believers have the same inner struggle. So, Nick’s writing is always memorable, whether I agree with his thoughts or not.
This album seems to have more musical highlights, too. The title track is actually quite good. It’s a bit repetitive, but there is a pleasant instrumental in the second half and Nick’s voice probably sounds the best on this track. “One Day”, despite being highly philosophical, has a nice chorus that gets stuck in my head. “Sonic Boom” is the best track on the album, and that is because it is instrumental and focused on Craig Blundell’s amazing guest drumming. “I Think of You” is a gorgeous instrumental, somewhat classical track that reminds me of something from a nostalgic film score. It, I think, helps to communicate the new and greater balance that I feel emanating from Nick’s lyrics. He is more people focused than ever, rather than focused on ideology only. This song ends the album wonderfully.
Overall, this is The Mute Gods’ best album to date. I still like the title track of the second album better than anything on this one, but the quality and undeniably balance on “Atheists and Believers” impresses me. Nick mentioned in the band bio that he is 57 years old, and he feels like he is just beginning a new era of his life. He doesn’t feel old at all. I would posit, though, that he is becoming wiser and more open minded with age, and I hope that trend continues.
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