'Review: Mudshaker's Tales of Azadahn' / Asher Bates
Ashthony Dirtiemosh Batetano here - the best mullet in the game - and today we’re reviewing Mudshaker's 11-track heavy psych rock concept-ish album ‘Tales of Azadahn,’ which tells the tale of the mystical being ‘The Mudshaker’ and it’s battle against antagonists such as ‘The Purifier’ and all other manners of magic-phobic groups.
When I first read the blurb for this album:
“Mudshaker are a heavy psych band from Melbourne who combines elements of psych, stoner, metal, and garage rock. Their conceptual debut album 'Tales of Azadahn' draws narrative inspiration from the likes of HP Lovecraft, JRR Tolkien and The War of the Worlds in an explosive display of heavy riffs and swimming jams. Basically, we play brutal psych bangaz”
My immediate thoughts were of King Gizz rip-offs and song after song played in 5/4 that I’ve come to associate with the term “psych bangerz,” which generally seems to cater for the more ‘I'm just here for the heavy drinking and a brawl in the mosh’ side of the scene. Personally, I’ve always been more a Psychotic Monks kinda guy than a King Gizz fan, an admission I wish to preface my thoughts with because my preconceived biases very much informed my reading of this album and it might be the case that my opinions differ greatly from the general consensus surrounding this record.
But… to cut right to the chase “Basically, we play brutal psych bangaz” totally undersells this album.
Look, in fairness, there’s a bit of that. Songs like Ascension (the albums eight’s track) and The Battle of Land and Sea definitely deliver the psych bangerz promised, in a way that is very very and I cannot stress this enough very reminiscent of Gizz bangerz… but hey they come right out and say it in the bio, that’s what they’re going for. And that's fine, and they’ve achieved that.
But where this album really shined for me was in the parts that weren’t just trying to make you fling your pint at the guy in front of you and see how many reluctant mosh goers in the wrong place at the wrong time you can shove.
Tracks like ‘Amphibian Dreams,’ featuring guest vox from Niamh Mulcahy, which seems almost a little late Drones early TFS inspired in its chorus, and ‘Behemoth’ which showed far more songwriting ability as well as offering some truly interesting guitar tones (though it is worth noting that the intro’s of many of these tracks is where the most interesting experimentation with distortion, noise and production techniques occur). While it’s a shame that this sonic ingenuity is often confined to the intro’s, ‘Behemoth’ and closing track ‘The Wandering’ are fantastic exceptions to this rule. These tracks offered, for me, a much-needed break from the relentless ‘psych bangers’ and really showered what the band is capable of in terms of creating some incredibly interesting and unique soundscapes. I really hope that in future releases this direction is explored further, for it was in these moments that I felt that Mudshaker really had a sound that was unique, that was their own and that they demonstrated serious mastery of.
The final section of ‘Apocalypse’ is exemplary of this as well but more than that it is incredibly telling of how this album was written - as an album (a truly rare thing for musicians of this age, and in this age). Though I’m confident few have listened to 'Tales of Azadahn' back to front, in the way that it was intended, I would highly recommend it. The songs have extreme dynamic shifts, which while giving the songs themselves a nice extra layer also help to inform the structure of the album, which with the inclusion of conversations between an ‘Old man’ and ‘Young Girl’ (as they are listed) gives the album a really nice flow as a single experience, a story which one should sit down and listen to from start to finish. These insertions of dialogue between tracks help to ease the transition from track to track and really keep the pace. There are few if any moments of true silence on this record, and for a self-proclaimed wall to wall bangerz, that is a great thing.
Now let’s talk about the concept part of this concept album - the idea of ‘Azadahn’ felt like it borrowed to a degree from the imagery of a pre-colonial Australia, ‘The Mudshaker’ and ‘The Purifyer’ in the way that they are described by the ‘Old Man’ was reminiscent to me of megafauna, and the idea of the Mudshaker emerging from the landscape felt somewhat like a twisted Dreamtime or creation story.
Other than that the subjects of this album are almost psych rock’s answer to Tenacious D, and that’s a good thing! Mudshaker doesn't take themselves too seriously, and that really comes across in this album, both celebrating and satirizing the tired tropes of the psych-rock genre. It’s all wizards, warlocks and fourth dimensions… surprisingly no mention of ethereal planes. But no one’s here for poignant or meaningful lyricism, they’re here for the gritty tones, the boppin’ distorted bass lines… the aforementioned psych-rock bangerz (all things which the album undeniably delivers in droves), and in that context, it’s to Mudshakers credit that the lyrics don’t take themselves seriously. If anything it lends the album depth through its seeming self-awareness in its unapologetic use of these tropes.
Ultimately, I wish this album had deviated musically from psych-rock tropes more than it did. But there are a lot of dynamics at play here, and there certainly is variation, overall a really strong release. An eleven-track concept album is something that is commendable in of itself, let alone one so cohesive across its hour + run time… so put in simpletons terms, this shit slaps.
Cover image: Aidan FG