Wed. Nov 25th, 2020

REVIEW: Mushroomhead – A Wonderful Life

For quite some time, it has seemed as though the world has been sinking deeper and deeper into unfathomable darkness, in such a way that it definitely needs an artistic interpretation. One of those bands capable of capturing the zeitgeist of our times quite poignantly, with regard to the climate change, wars, and escape movements, is the Cleveland-based, masked metal machine MUSHROOMHEAD on their new album ”A Wonderful Life,” which is to be released on 19 June 2020 via Napalm Records.

For the better part of the past five years, the band has been crafting this epic follow-up to their monumental 2014 full-length album, ”The Righteous & the Butterfly,” and judging by the first few listen-throughs, it was time well spent. The album sounds like a metal requiem for the world. It is structured around one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s most famous compositions, the 12-movement piece entitled ”Requiem,” even featuring parts of this choral piece here and there. This metal mass could serve as an apt musical warning about the deterioration of our modern way of life. These strong classical inclinations, paired with the album’s message, are slightly reminiscent of the 2013 album ”Messe I.X-VI.X” by the Norwegian avant-garde oddballists, ULVER. The latter is a plaintive meditation on humanity’s demise, whereas these Cleveland-metalheads deliver their token of remembrance with a bit more of a metal punch. ”A Wonderful Life” flows like a movie. For a horror-themed metal band, MUSHROOMHEAD has chosen not to apply the genuinely disturbing, dissociative, and glitchy slasher metal of bands such as ICE NINE KILLS, nor has it resorted to the cartoon horror of LORDI or ALICE COOPER. The music, along with the band’s visual image – what with the masks and music videos – navigates somewhere between the horror aesthetics of movie directors Guillermo Del Toro and Tarsem Singh.

The album starts with a choir chanting the Roman Catholic Mass, ”Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,” before the opening track, ”A Requiem For Tomorrow,” morphs into an old school-vibey riff assault. It sets an appropriate mood for the whole album. The band was formed in 1993, which might explain the vintage touch when it comes to the songwriting. The album blends choral parts and ballady pianos quite beautifully with glitchy electronics and brutal metal riffs, resonating the crossover aesthetics of the 1990s. The key contributors to this somewhat pleasant, old-school sound are the long-time FAITH NO MORE-studio wizard, Matt Wallace, along with the production mastery of the band’s drummer, Skinny. The new MUSHROOMHEAD offering is yet another prime example that some of the metal virtues of the 1990s are well worth preserving.

After the first track on this new MUSHROOMHEAD album, it becomes pretty clear that the album title is definitely not meant to be taken literally. The sarcasm and biting social commentary in the lyrics are slightly akin to the finest MR. BUNGLE moments. The track, ”The Time Has Come,” bears pleasant resemblance to the fine piano piece, ”The Holy Filament,” by this Mike Patton-fronted bunch of musical terrorists, before the song breaks into thrash metal riffing via a brief hard NRG-aerobics break in the best Mr. Bungle fashion. Both bands excel at dressing up musical clichés into something exciting. While listening to ”A Wonderful Life,” you will soon realize that all the basic horror movie soundtrack elements are present on the album. Songs such as ”11th Hour” and the 7-minute epic, ”Where the End Begins,” gallop forward with ominous piano motifs that resonate with the air of J.S. Bach. Industrial blast-offs act as well-placed jump scares. The obligatory circus-music quota is more than filled with the harpsichord-waltz of ”What a Shame,” but you cannot get mad at the band for pillaging these overused tricks. Even the choral snippets from Mozart‘s ”Requiem” fall into place quite seamlessly.

The album ends with the choral passage, ”Confutatis,” from this classical piece. The limited-edition comes with four bonus tracks, with the last one being the ”Lacrimosa” part and the album track, ”Pulse,” ends with a choral outro reciting the ”Dies Irae” section of this requiem. These classical furnishings somewhat intensify the overall feeling of listening to an eyewitness testimony of the world dissolving into ashes. Well, yes – it’s not exactly a new idea. In fact, there are not that many new ingredients in this musical cocktail, considering the stylistic palette of the band’s previous albums, but the band cooks up a delicious banquet with these clichéd elements, like a Michelin-starred chef. The songwriting is top-notch and the horror clichés are added just for seasoning.

In April, along with the news about the arrival of this new album, MUSHROOMHEAD announced that the band’s touring vocalist since 2014, Jackie LaPonza from UNSAID FATE, would be a full-time member of the band from now on, adopting the alias Ms. Jackie. Her vocals dissolve the instant Faith No More-vibes in some of the album tracks, and in the song, ”Carry On,” her vocal delivery balances on the fine line between THE CRANBERRIES and IN THIS MOMENT – without the iconic Irish keening of Dolores O’Riordan, of course. The vocal duties were split between three vocalists already on the band’s previous studio album and it worked quite well. Now, if I dare say so, it works even better.

To sum it all up, ”A Wonderful Life” embraces the current reality of the world quite beautifully, with poignant lyrics and class-A songcraft. I guess the album has a special appeal to those who have been raised on the diet of 1990s crossover metal bands such as STATIC X, Faith No More, SUBURBAN TRIBE, or the like. It works marvelously as an emotional snack food, with the individual, anthemic songs such as the music video track, ”Seen it All,” but to get the full nutritional benefits, you’d better devour the album as a whole, chronologically from track one to the choral grande finale. It is a quite a trip.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. A Requiem for Tomorrow
  2. Madness Within
  3. Seen It All
  4. The Heresy
  5. What A Shame
  6. Pulse
  7. Carry On
  8. The Time Has Come
  9. 11th Hour
  10. I Am the One
  11. The Flood
  12. Where the End Begins
  13. Confutatis
  14. To the Front (Bonus Track)
  15. Sound of Destruction (Bonus Track)
  16. Another Ghost (Bonus Track)
  17. Lacrimosa (Bonus Track)

Lineup

Mr. Rauckhorst – Vocals
Jmann – Vocals
Ms. Jackie – Vocals
Dr. F – Keyboards & Bass Guitar
Tankx – Guitars
Stitch – Keyboards & Samples
Diablo – Drums/Percussion
Skinny – Drums/Percussion

Label

Napalm Records

Links

www.mushroomhead.com/

www.facebook.com/mushroomheadofficial

www.instagram.com/mushroomheadofficial/

www.twitter.com/mushroomhead

label.napalmrecords.com/mushroomhead

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