During his time with post-metal titans Isis, guitarist Michael Gallagher produced solo works under the moniker Mustard Gas & Roses, sometimes promoted simply as MGR. Over many releases, which included a film score, Gallagher crafted guitar-lead ambient compositions that toyed with the facets of post-rock, drone, electroacoustic, among others. Since the mid-2000s, MGR has been a solely Gallagher-lead affair with some collaborators contributing here and there. Until now. Gallagher enlisted the help of guitarists J. Bennett (Ides of Gemini) and Bryan Tulao (Chelsea Wolfe) and drummer Sash Popovic (Black Math Horseman) to aid him in revising MGR completely, and turning the project into a a full-fledged band. This new incarnation of MGR makes its debut on Becoming; a thunderous post-metal romp spiced with a western flair perfect for long journeys through desolate wastelands.
Becoming begins with a hypnotic, repetitive guitar line on “Closer”, which is slowly enveloped by expressive drumming and layers of atmosphere and echoing guitar riffs. Gallagher and company gradually morph these post-rock meditations into more intricate forms before the track opens up into a climax of barreling, sludgy riffs and serpentine melodies. Tracks like “Let it Roll” and “Rise” capitalize on the rising and falling song structures associated with the post-metal genre, and naturally nods to Isis and other mainstays of the genre such as Pelican. The songs usually start off with slow-burning, clean guitar-lead sections that either resonate with post-rock sensibility (“Let it Roll”) or desert twang (“Rise”). These sections bleed into monolithic guitar riffs that pummel the listener with their sonic weight and aggression, but never seem to skimp on melody.
Cuts like the brooding “As One” are more unyielding in their assaults. Huge, lumbering guitars and equally thunderous drumming unleash sprawling sludge attacks that often transition into mid-paced stampedes and back again. The album’s title track, however, sticks out like a sore thumb in the best way possible. The track begins with a lengthy acoustic guitar-lead section that is enveloped with ethereal vocal melodies and an overall western atmosphere. Gallagher’s gravelly, droning voice spearheads this desert rock dirge before the track explodes into a section of trudging riffs and hypnotic, gliding melodies that echo across desert canyons. After this psychedelic sludge upheaval the song gradually fades into a somber clean guitar section in which Gallagher and crew deliver some last minute melancholia.
With the help of his new bandmates, Gallagher completely transformed MGR into a completely different animal. Comparisons to sister band Isis are sure to come, but it should be noted that the band is more than just another post-metal act. Becoming is brimming with post-metal characteristics, but also features a surprising display of western and folk elements, as well as the occasional desert rock flourish and doom stomp. It’s a post-metal/sludge album at heart with a lot of little tricks up its sleeve. With this new direction it will be interesting to see where Gallagher takes the project next.
Release Date: October 14, 2016
Label: The Mylene Sheath
Favorite Tracks: “Threshold”, “Let it Roll”, “Becoming” and “Rise”
For Fans Of: Isis, Pelican and Grails