Every time Wes Borland releases an extemporary project from seemingly nowhere, there’s an elephant in the room that grows at an exponential rate. At this point, there have been so many new projects, the elephant has outgrown the building and has ballooned up to the size of Godzilla. Further still, if you observe the beast, you can see it aimlessly wandering around dejectedly murmuring to itself in a tone resonate of Eeyore, ‘where the fu*k is this Black Light Burns album at?’ I don’t want to be that guy, but goddamn, it’s been a whole decade since we got anything from Borland’s greatest musical achievement. In the space of ten years, we’ve had two Big Dumb Face records, a Limp Bizkit album, three solo records and several demo dumps for both of the Eat the Day and Goatslayer projects. The quality of this material ranges from iffy, meh, to excellent, I will admit, but generally most of these recorded works reside in the ‘meh’ category. In fact, getting down to brass tacks, with the exception of Wes’ fantastic debut solo album, Crystal Machete, and Limp Bizkit’s first album in ten years, most of this other stuff goes largely forgotten about.
Yet here we are in 2023, with Borland still oblivious to the demand of a new Black Light Burns album (despite Wes himself actually teasing the fans over the years that it’s coming) and Mutiny on the Starbarge tone-deafly blindsides the fans. This is Borland’s third attempt (or fourth if you want to include Black Light Burn’s third LP) at this pseudo-soundtrack concept and I’ll be frank; the appeal for these projects is slowly eroding with every chapter. Crystal Machete was a genuine artistic triumph that had a really unique aesthetic to it, with all of Borland’s ethereal signatures attached to it. Unfortunately for the successors, rather than making a new recipe, The Astral Hand and Mutiny on the Starbarge uses the same tried formula, only watered down. Essentially, both of Crystal Machete’s sequels feel like cordial – The Astral Hand takes the perfect concentration rate from the debut but adds more water to weaken the taste, and now Mutiny on the Starbarge takes the weakened flavour from The Astral Hand and serves up an album with barely any distinguishing flavour to it.
The results, like the sophomore album, are innocuous, there’s nothing egregious here, but it’s hard to shake the fact a lot of this feels recycled from the debut LP and ultimately becomes soporific the more you listen to it. There are moments on Mutiny on the Starbarge that capture Borland’s genius. “The Horror is Nominal” is easily the best track on here and blends Borland’s penchant for hypnotic grooves with Daft Punk, and the poignant ballad “Walking the Great Ring” seizes his imagination and manifests into a lucid vista being brought to life, but on the whole, the album is so homogenous and uses so many Wes Borland tropes shall we say, it basically sets up these tracks to fail. In fact, listening to this really puts compositional work into perspective and the adversities that come with writing scores for entertainment. Wes Borland is an irrefutably talented musician and is responsible for creating a plethora of exceptional works over the years, but even with this level of talent there are no guarantees. If nothing else, it’s evident to me you have to be a special type of individual to be able to compose scores at an engaging level, and the more I hear these solo instrumental albums, the more evident it is score-esque compositional work is not in the remit of Borland’s forte.