The debut self-titled effort from Bay-Area metal/hardcore troupe, Mohicans (not to be confused with the instrumental post-rock band MOHICAN, who put out their own self-titled LP this year as well), is a prime example of one of modern metal’s deep-seated issues: lack of risk taking.
If you’ve followed the metallic hardcore genre, or the crustier, heavier side of sludge, then you’ve heard this before. Every band from Trap Them to Baptists have tread the ground Mohicans strides, but with far more depth and personality. On their self-titled EP, the San Francisco band showcases the requisite aggression and chaotic tonality one would expect from a metallic hardcore outfit, but with little in terms of conceptual originality or unique execution. That’s not to say Mohicans don’t show promise, as this is by no means a bad or poorly-performed record, but that only serves to make it all the more disappointing.
Mohicans’ biggest blunder is their adherence to a sound and style we know well, and one that has been done to death. In order to stand out amongst the throngs of try-hards, die-hards, and cookie cutters, you have to do something dangerous, take risks; instead, Mohicans imitate and replicate. Unfortunately for them, metallic hardcore is no longer the underground darling genre is once was, meaning simply delivering music in that style longer makes your band a hit a priori. Some may argue that the band’s adherence to mid-paced tempos, and integration of bluesy sludge riffs offsets the perceived cookie cutter nature of the record. But it’s been done before. One need only take a quick stroll through Southern Lords roster of signees to find a host of others employ these very same tactics. On their bandcamp page, Mohicans name-drops acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Black Flag, and Mastodon as stylistic influences. It’s true. They also tout their G-Standard tuning, which is certainly heavy, but if you’re not using that tuning or those influences in an interesting way, then what’s the point?
That’s not to say this record is terrible. In fact, it’s pretty decent. Vocally, while de rigueur for the genre, the vocal delivery is standout; the bluesy riffs, despite sounding lifted from Kyuss b-sides, do at least remind you you’re listening to a slightly different band than any of the other Cursed ripoffs shambling around, and there’s clear proficiency in everything from the guitar work to drum fills. While no single point on any of the six tracks stands out, the album is at least worthy of a few listens. The 15-minute runtime doesn’t hurt this point, and makes it easier to go back to when you need a quick spurt of easily digestible anger. By that description, Mohicans should be at least worthwhile enough to warrant a less-critical review, right? The problem, however, is that Mohicans — both the album and the band themselves — signifies a major problem with modern metal music: as a fanbase, and as a genre, we’ve all become a little too okay with, well, “just okay.” If it’s angry, sounds cool, and is well-performed, it should get a good rating, right? Personally, I don’t think so.
Extreme music was once a risk in and of itself. The danger surrounding the music was fresh and new, and few bands sounded quite like each other. But then the internet came around, and not only defanged the scene by making it accessible (in a commercial sense), but also spawned droves of young bands imitating their idols, attempting to capture the same emotions and sounds rather than trying something new. Extreme music is no longer risky, nor all that fresh, to be frank. It’s on the bands to push themselves, and the entire scene, forward. While it may not be fair to pin all of these issues on Mohicans or their self titled release altogether, the ho-hum result is a symptom of a larger, and immediate issue that metal needs to overcome. It’s especially frustrating in this case, when a band has promise, yet opts instead to fit in well-worn boundaries.
Funnily enough, the aforementioned post-rock/metal band, MOHICAN, are far more interesting and original, but that’s a discussion for another review. By all means, Mohicans’ self titled record is a fine effort. It’s listenable, no-frills, and will likely serve as above-par filler for crust/sludge/hardcore diehards. But Mohicans have chops and energy, and one can’t help but feel this is, on some level, wasted potential. Do we really need another album like this?
– Brendan Hesse
Mohicans is out now. For more information on Mohicans, visit the band’s official Facebook page.