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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Mushroomhead

Savior Sorrow

Review by Gary Hill

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this, my first exposure to Mushroomhead, wasn't what I thought it would be. I guess I'd always expected the band to be a stoner rock/metal band. While there are a few moments that might fall into that category, it is really only one tiny part of what these guys do. The most impressive thing about this CD is the depth of variety you'll find. They move between techno, extreme thrash, those stoner tones, and even modern dark pop with ease. I'd have to say that when they stay closest to the metal (all sides of it) approaches is when they are most successful. They tend to come across as generic and contrived when working more pop oriented sounds into the mix. The real exception to this is the balladic closer, but the main problem with the more mainstream sounds is that there are so many other bands treading this same territory (and a lot of them doing a better job) that it just seems a waste of Mushroomhead's talent. Overall the disc is quite listenable and solid. There are moments of sheer brilliance here and some throwaway sections. It shows a band with a lot of talent who seem to be reaching for pop mediocrity too often when they could be achieving unique greatness with that same effort. In other words this is a very good disc that might have been just plain great.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
12 Hundred
A killer metal groove with hints of industrial music starts this one off. They launch it out into a furious, angry screamer, but as they move onward drop it back to the more stripped down approach. This is definitely a take-no-prisoners way to lead off the disc.
Simple Survival
With keyboards and processed vocals serving to begin this it's more purely techno in nature. As this powers up and carries onward there are Eastern tones creeping over the top at points. I'm pretty well amazed at how catchy the chorus here is. While I don't like this one as much as the one that came before it, it has its merits for sure. Certainly it is more dynamic, shifting frequently between more scorching metal sounds and laid back techno. It is also more dramatic. It just doesn't seem to burn quite as brightly, perhaps in part because that chorus is a bit too polished and “poppy.”
Damage Done
Now this is more like it. While odd sound effects make up the intro here we get hints of metallic fury about to ensue showing up as accents. When they launch out it's with a vengeance in some of the heaviest sounds of the disc. Parents, be on the alert for the “f bomb.” They still pull it down into odd techno territory at times on this one, but the Eastern tones that show up along with the heavier than heavy approach elevate this quite nicely.
Save Us
A slow, sedate but melancholy motif begins this. After a verse in that style (and it's quite a dramatic verse), they twist this out into a pounding gothic metal mode that serves the album well. They alternate between these sounds and put in another surprisingly catchy vocal segment. While I wouldn't consider this to be my favorite track on the disc, it is a scorcher.
Tattoo
Pounding with furious intensity and speed, this is another of the heaviest pieces on show. It's a screaming, thrashing raw composition and among the most purely metal tracks on show here. It's also a highlight of the disc.
Erase the Doubt
We're back into more pure techno territory on this one. This is surprisingly catchy and “poppy” considering the dark and twisted tones. While this isn't bad, it's definitely one of the weaker cuts on show here.
Burn
A totally techno introduction gives way to another blistering, oppressive metal motif. They alternate between brutality and catchy techno sounds as this carries onward. The contrast is good, but again I wouldn't consider this to be a standout.
Just Pretending
Here backwards sounds that almost feel like dark prog are the opening moments. They drop it to a goth, techno approach that has a lot of pop sensibility to it. They power it out into melodic but extremely heavy metal for the choruses. Again, this isn't bad, but not a highlight. Still, there is one extremely tasty riff and some cool moods here.
The Need
A pretty keyboard sound starts this as a startling contrast to the rest of the album. When they pound out into the song proper it's in the form of a heavy, but rather generic modern techno dominated numetal sound. This one is cool despite the generic nature of it. In fact, I'd consider this to be a highlight of the disc.
Cut Me
Weird sound effects open this and vocals come over this. As it builds keyboards serve as the backdrop for the vocals. This is dark, but very pretty. As it carries on it hints at being on the verge of exploding out in furious power. Eventually it does, but rather sporadically. This is heavy at times and a bit odd. It's a good change of pace, but not a standout.
The Fallen
The best riff of the album leads this off. A killer sound that combines vintage Sabbath and Priest into a numetal jam is the main motif here. This is probably my favorite song on show. It's more pure metal than a lot of the stuff and just has a great groove. This is more what I expected Mushroomhead to sound like. A cool plodding jam (feeling a bit like Sleep or Electric Wizard) late in the track is just plain awesome!
Embrace the Ending
Weird effects oriented goth sounds, very far back in the mix begin this one. These modes hold the track for a time until a moody prog metal ballad approach takes over. This builds gradually and is among the most accessible music on the album. This never really rises up far from there, but rather serves as the ballad of the disc. I'm not sure I would have closed with this, but it is a highlight of the CD. e!


 
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