The most immediate impression one gets about the performance art ensemble known as Mudvayne, is that that the members fancy themselves as the band of the new millennium.

That notion comes screaming through every aspect of the band's national debut album, "L.D. 50," from the genderless humanoid featured on the cover to the sterile whiteness of the disc inside.

Their message is clear: "Music must evolve to survive!" Who better to take mankind to the next level of the current hybrid style of heavy music than an unlikely Peoria, Ill., band. Stranger things have happened, but not lately.

The CD's opening track, "Monolith," takes its name from the foreboding alien artifact so prevalent in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey." That brief techno-driven dialogue piece about apes, mushrooms and human evolution is the perfect introduction to the dark and savage sounds reverberating through this 17-track set of extreme music produced by GGGarth Richardson (L7, Rage Against The Machine, etc.).

That Skipknot percussionist Shawn "6" Crahan, who became a big fan of the band while his group toured with them on this past summer's "Tattoo The Earth Tour," executive produced the freshman effort, which gives added credence to "L.D. 50." Newly signed to Epic/Sony, the band is already well into a world tour. Mudvayne is in many ways the personification of the mysterious black monolith they seem to adore of Kubrick's film.

Formed five years ago in the heartland, or as they put it "the wasteland" of the Midwest, Mudvayne has seemingly made a career out of remaining as cryptic as the monolith itself.

The four musicians who make up the band have adopted abstract alter-egos, hiding their real identities behind layers of garish and hallucinatory face paint. Furthering the mystery are the curious alienlike names they have each adopted.

Painting their faces was not part of the initial game plan in 1996, when drummer sPaG [Chad Gray] put the group together with frontman/vocalist Kud [M. McDonough] and guitarist Gurrg [Greg Tribbett]. That all began about the same time the band found its most recent member, Ryknow [Ryan Martinie], after enduring two years with a revolving cast of bass players.

"We'd always wanted to try and bring some visual aspect to what we did, but of course being a local band in Peoria, our budget was always very limited," sPaG explained.

There is no rhyme nor reason to the painted masks they wear according to the beat keeper. "(Our make-up) is like our music," he said, "we leave it up to the listener to make their own opinions about what it is we are really doing."

Personal interpretation notwithstanding, there is an overall theme running through their album. "The music on this CD reflects and embodies ideas about the evolution of consciousness, transformation and the risks involved in experimenting with things that can change a person's point of view," explained sPaG, who added that he and his bandmates see Kubrick's film monolith as being representative of those same things.

Just as the late director opened his celluloid opus of future interstellar grandeur with footage of primitives cavorting at the base of the brooding black structure, Mudvayne opted to introduce its aural adventure in a like manner.

It's none too surprising that symbolism and metaphors are found within the grooves of Mudvayne's music, considering that the members are huge fans of film work.

"Our ultimate goal is to make people feel like they are at a movie when they come to see us," Gurrg said. "The make-up isn't important. It's just what we're doing right now with the finances available. That will all change. We want props for us to interact with on stage. We want big theatrics, soundscapes and audience involvement. This is only the beginning."

"As a group, we have been greatly influenced by movies and directors," sPaG added. "Kubrick's work in general has influenced us tremendously, especially '2001' and 'A Clockwork Orange.'"

The band has a gargantuan sound that is equal parts industrial and heavy metal built upon a penchant for riffing and for break-speed melodies. The huge metallic guitars and unrelenting grooves bludgeon the listener as the CD journeys from one brutal song to the next.

While the sonic thunder of their music assaults the senses, it is important to note that the songwriting style, despite the brutality of the performance are strewn with hooks and built on melodic structure.

"The name of the CD is actually a medical term that is used by pharmacologists to describe the toxic level of a substance," sPaG explained. "(L.D. 50) stands for Lethal Dosage 50, which represents how much of a chemical it takes to kill 50 out of 100 test subjects."

The band sees its music as a sonic parallel to such a chemical. "It (the title) is another metaphor," sPaG said, "for how things that can potentially open your mind, expand your consciousness, and show you a new vision of yourself and the world also have a risk involved in them and a consequence. It's about how far you can push the envelope before it gets dangerous, which is how we'd like to see our music perceived."

With a "damn the torpedoes" attitude, Mudvayne is pushing the musical envelope as much as they can.

"As music evolves, it has the power to evolve others," Gurrg said. "So our ultimate goal then, is to push people beyond their boundaries."

* Email Tom Lounges at Beatboss@aol.com