In case you missed it, San Jose metalcore quartet Mugshot released their latest EP last week. Not quite familiar with that name? Here’s a brief run-down of everything you need to know about them and why ‘Empty Heaven’ should be on your listening radar.
The Bay Area outfit [Eli Truitt – vocals, Michael Demko – guitar, Connor Haines – drums, Eddie Smith – bass] formed after three members– all part of another project at the time– toyed with the idea of venturing into even heavier musical territory. Starting an entirely new band presented a clean slate and resulted in the addition of a quintessential fourth member. “When we met Michael was when Mugshot really came together,” states Haines.
Citing their unique relationship with their hometown and its music scene, the Bay Area’s appreciation for hardcore, and legendary acts in metal like Slipknot and Pantera as key influences, Mugshot ambitiously strive to yield a sound that’s as pummeling as possible– and that’s no understatement. ‘Empty Heaven’ is permeated with ruthless aggression, and the occasional contrasting melody or groove only puts it more in your face.
‘Empty Heaven’ is split into two parts; the first half thematically revolves around suicide and cherished ones the band have lost over the years, while the second half is more outspoken, tackling socially and politically relevant topics like discrimination and the importance of mental health being openly discussed.
Guttural screams and the apprehensive bend of a guitar precede the very first breakdown within seconds of “Egodystonic”, showing how Mugshot can get as heavy as possible in record time. “Violent Ends” feels like a continuation of the former track and maniacally runs its course; it’s brutally heavy, it’s dissonant, it’s all over the place.
“Good People” brings a moment of gut-wrenching vulnerability and stands out as one of ‘Empty Heaven’‘s most important tracks. Tying into the thematic duality between the respective first and second halves of the EP, this song feels about as real and raw as it gets. Struck with anguish and grief, Truitt‘s visceral anger translates his yearning to withdraw from the world precisely, with the song’s chillingly detailed finale bringing a wave of emotions.
Crushing riffs and battering, bruising drums dominate “Hate Speech” as the song lyrically serves as Mugshot‘s politically-charged criticism on the world’s pitiful regression we see regularly conveyed through the media. Thought provoking, yet jarring and almost twisted, “bullet holes in the heads of our nation” makes for one of the EP’s most memorable lyrics and the song’s closing line.
“Death Has A Shadow” channels a nostalgic sound reminiscent of metal’s influential predecessors and fuses it with the rhythms of energetic beatdown hardcore– if it’s not obvious upon first listen, this song needs a mosh pit to come with it. ‘Empty Heaven’ ends with its title track, and melodic subtleties throw a slight unexpected twist to listeners before Mugshot resume their signature all-out heaviness. Something about the reappearance of the hook “soft and flowing” instills the thought this track is somehow connected with its former– like they each demonstrate two sides of the same coin.
Music enthusiasts with a love for metal– or anything mercilessly heavy start to finish, for that matter– will resonate with Mugshot‘s ‘Empty Heaven’. The EP is intriguing both sonically and lyrically, finding relief and validity in bleak headspace and outspoken feelings of anger, frustration, and torment.