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Mustard Gas & Roses – “Becoming” (Stream + Band Commentary)

Mustard Gas & Roses
Photo by Michelle Pullman

Despite launching the careers of innumerable post-metal bands, Isis left a gaping hole in the metal scene when they gracefully bowed out in 2010. Many have tried, but no one has been able to recreate the exact alchemy of Isis’s sound. The tangible details of their style have been absorbed into the DNA of cutting edge metal, but treating their mix of post rock dynamics, literary aspirations and sludgy low end as a blueprint ignores the disparate and idiosyncratic influences that led Isis to that sound in the first place. Isis were made of individual musicians with individual tastes long before they were canonized.

If anyone is capable of scratching the particular itch that Isis have left unscratched in the last six years it would be the former members of Isis themselves. But in the wake of Wavering Radiant their individual projects have instead illuminated the ingredients without replicating the end result. Aaron Turner has gone full aggro in his two supergroups, Old Man Gloom and Sumac, while Aaron Harris, Jeff Caxide, and Clifford Meyer teamed up with Deftones singer Chino Moreno for Palms. Between Sumac’s scathing heaviness and Palms blissed out sunset wash listeners can approximate something like Isis’s golden age, but these two bands, along with Jeff Caxide’s ambient work as Crone, are terrific in part because of how they’ve isolated and expanded upon the extremes of Isis’s sound. The same range of influences that made Isis special have led their former members to stretch away from the band’s center, and the glue that held them together has gone missing.

If you’re an astute Isis fan, you may have noticed that one name didn’t crop up in that run down of post-Isis projects. While his former bandmates have stayed busy, guitarist Mike Gallagher has stayed quiet. That silence is about to be gently broken by the release of Becoming, Gallagher’s third album as Mustard Gas & Roses. In the decade since his last full length under that name, Gallagher has expanded the act from a solo project to a full instrumental band. But despite filling out the ranks with members of Chelsea Wolfe’s backing band and Ideas Of Gemini, Mustard Gas & Roses is still unmistakably a product of Gallagher’s songwriting. That songwriting also makes Mustard Gas & Roses the closest thing to Panopticon since Panopticon.

Becoming reveals that Gallagher may have been the missing glue all along. Not only are his chord voicings instantly recognizable, but his arrangements with the full band make use of the same types of counterpoint and roaming melodic bass lines that were unique to Isis. Of course, Isis never would have put a mournful Swans-esque acoustic ballad in the middle of their record, although Gallagher’s wonderfully plainspoken vocals suggest that this was a major missed opportunity for them.

Analyzing Becoming in relation to Gallagher’s past doesn’t do the record justice, however. The album has the fresh aura of a debut, but its refined sense of melody is clearly the product of seasoned pros. Stream Becoming in full below and consider your Isis itch thoroughly scratched.

Read Mike Gallagher’s liner notes for the album below

Closer

Early on, I wrestled with the intro of this song, I was trying to hit a square peg in a round hole. I finally changed it to what it is now and the rest all came together beautifully. The end is a tribute to a gospel song that I was listening to a lot while writing “Closer”.

Threshold

Pretty sure this is the sixth song we did and I was starting to feel that I needed to “get to the point“ more quickly. This song does just that and it is a ton of fun to play! Also, I think this may be the shortest song I’ve written.

Let it Roll

I think this was the third song we did together and we had hit a good stride. The song is also a generous nod to George Harrison. I have been obsessed with “All things Must Pass” for quite some time.

Becoming

“Becoming” was the last song I wrote for the record. I had been playing around with the first riff on my acoustic for a while and for some reason, I felt compelled to sing over it. This was my first crack at singing anything, so I am sure I made my wife, the neighbors and anyone walking by the house cringe when the heard me trying to suss out what I was doing. I didn’t feel confident that we’d be able to turn it into an MGR song until I wrote the middle and end. Once the structure was worked out, I brought it to the guys. It didn’t take long for Bryan to work out his harmonies and solo and Sash to add the dynamic shifts making it really come alive.

The Flood

“The Flood” was the first song we worked on together as a band. To me this song was about building trust and us finding our voice collectively and also as individuals playing together.

End of the Line

“End of the Line” was structured to showcase Sash destroying it.

As One

This was our second song, and it’s just a fun song to play. It’s easy, it’s heavy. It’s working title was “Borax” a la Melvins

Rise

I believe that “Rise” was the fifth song we started, but we really didn’t finish it until we were in the studio. We were able to get the first half of the song buttoned up very quickly, but the end, where it goes to 4/4, never quite felt right. In the studio, we tracked the song and the end was quite good, but felt like it dragged a bit. When we listened back to the end, we all felt that it needed something more. My natural inclination is always to add more tracks and to yield a more dramatic effect, however, Bryan and Sash suggested taking away some of the elements that we recorded to create a more sparse and vast feeling. They were absolutely correct, when it kicks in, it’s a monster.

You can order the album from Mylene Sheath here. Follow Mustard Gas & Roses on Facebook.

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