The Righteous & The Butterfly
I’ve been a fan of Mushroomhead ever since the video for “Solitaire Unraveling” debuted on MTV2. From that point, I immediately purchased the band’s album Xx which was merely a re-recorded compilation consisting of work from their self-titled, Superbuick and M3 discs. But that material was unmistakable. No one had done it quite like that, mixing industrial with death, groove and nu-metal along with new wave and rap. Then a few more albums came afterward, XIII being their last strong record after the band decided that they needed a more mainstream vocal approach. Thus came Waylon Reavis into the band, making what was a great formula into something more alternative and pop-laden. The band hadn’t been able to get it right ever since, as longtime frontman J Mann soon walked out the door leaving Waylon to take his place on the mainstream effort, Savior Sorrow and the horribly unfinished Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children. After the release of that album, they booted out longtime guitarist Dan “Gravy” Felton and replaced him with another fellow by the name of Mike Church. Longtime bass player Pig Benis also left, leaving Dr. F to take his place. Finally, after two troubling albums, J Mann walked back through the door and took back the microphone… Mushroomhead was certainly starting to look like Mushroomhead again.
The Righteous & The Butterfly certainly stands as the strongest Mushroomhead record in years. There’s no doubt about that. “Our Apologies” kicks this thing up with the single strongest song that I’ve heard from these guys since 2003. Even with Waylon’s poppy clean chorus approach, the track still stands memorable. It’s literally composed of everything that Xx and XIII were, with J Mann’s vocal delivery completely on fire as abrasive riffs and pounding drums really pump in the heaviness. The same formula is attempted again on “Devils Be Damned” which still sees the band with relative potency. But this is Mushroomhead, so we should also expect a little experimentation and that’s just what we get with “How Many Times” which at first appears to be a soft ballad, as it quickly morphs into a more abrasive cut that also features a surprising electronic disco groove. At first I wasn’t sure what to think, but little tweaks like these really do seem to make a difference in the album and cement the memorability of an act like Mushroomhead over others of its type. More experimentation follows with the single, “Qwerty” which really doesn’t sound like anything else on the album, but the choice of funhouse music and harsh rapping certainly mark as Mushroomhead material. Apparently the band had been inspired by their older work and this track (and many others on the disc) is a result of that inspiration. “Portraits Of The People” brings some well needed piano to the mix as Jeffrey Nothing finally gets some verse lines on the disc. He sings as well as he would have on Mushroomhead classics, “The New Cult King” or “Mother Machine Gun” and manages to bring a morbidity for which he has been known to the track. For some reason, Waylon decided to extend it into “Childlike” which doesn’t really seem necessary. It’s not even two minutes long and despite some nice leads, I don’t think it was necessary to place on the disc at all. “Portraits Of The People” would have done just fine without it. “This Cold Reign” just kind of flies by as “We Are The Truth” comes in with a first time use of female vocal in the band with Jackie Laponza of Unsaid Fate handling those vocal duties. The song itself is quite groovy, even jazzy and Jackie’s vocal approach goes quite well with it. Next came “Son Of 7” which seems to feature some nice leads courtesy of Mike Church as J Mann thunders into life along with Waylon. Problem is, the song doesn’t really achieve so much other than being overtly heavy and groovy. There’s even some djent influence, which isn’t really necessary. Must we really follow the bandwagon, gentlemen?
“For Your Pleasure” comes next, sounding like it could have been a previously unreleased track from Superbuick or M3. The use of pianos and overall nostalgic feel of the track makes it feel like one of the most memorable tracks on the album. “Worlds Collide” seems to roll along decently, as “Graveyard Du Jour” brings the eerie pianos back, (along with the songs of a motorcycle revving and a child’s laughter) but it doesn’t go anywhere after that. One of the main things that I’ve noticed on the disc is how most of these tracks flow right into each other, as it’s supposed to be some sort of cohesive piece. It’s an odd way to do a Mushroomhead album, but I guess it works in this case. “Out Of My Mind” seemed to be the best way to send this thing out with hard-driving rhythms and classic Nothing/J Mann vocal delivery, but the band decided that they would instead include just one more track to close the album, which just so happens to be an Adele cover of all things. Yep. Though I think they could have done a better a job with “Set Fire To The Rain” this version of “Rumor Has It” certainly comes off interesting with its electro-metal vibe and distorted chorus. It’s not quite as good as the Seal cover of “Crazy” (which is ten times better than Seal’s original, in my opinion) but it works and makes me hopeful that they’ll cover more tracks in the future.
Mushroomhead prove with this album that they’ve still got what it takes after all these years. It’s good to see that their feud between Slipknot is finally ending, which could mean a possible live collaboration between the two masked acts sometime in the future. As far as I’m concerned, the masks never really made either band for me, as it was always the music. That is why Mushroomhead still remains a celebrated act in 2014, long after some thought that their days would have long been numbered after the release of Xx. Though I’m not really sure who the righteous and the butterfly are, (possible MONARCH mind control reference?) this record surely floats like a butterfly and stings like a hornet. There’s a Best Buy exclusive version of the album which you’ll also be able to pick up in addition to the original and it’s considered to be an “extended version.” So if you’re as curious as I am as to what that refers to, then you’ll need to pre-order it now or pick up a copy at Best Buy when it releases on Tuesday. It’s definitely the one Mushroomhead album that many of us have been waiting a long time to hear. (Eric May)
Purchase The Righteous & The Butterfly here: iTunes