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The Righteous & the Butterfly

Mushroomhead

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Mushroomhead is an industrial metal band formed in 1993 within the Cleveland area. They released 3 underground albums in the ‘90s, and followed it up with another 3 afterwards. This is the band’s 7th overall studio album. A remarkable note is that this album features the return of vocalist J Mann, whom appeared on the band’s first 4 albums. This is the first time in the band’s history to have 3 vocalists, the other 2 being founding member Jeffrey Nothing and 2004 entree Waylon Reavis. It’s also the first album to not feature Pig Benis on bass (whom replaced his brother Mr. Murdernickel in 1996), and the first album to not feature Gravy on guitar (whom replaced Dinner in 1998). The new members respectively are Dr. F and Church. Roberto Diablo also replaced Daniel Fox on custom percussion. For the sake of continuity, the lineup also consists of founding members Skinny on drums and Shmotz on keyboards, along with St1ch on the turntables whom has been in the band since 2001. Although initially confusing, the only other former members are DJ Virus on turntables from 1993 to 1995, Bronson on turntables and eventually guitar from 1995 to 2006, and the late legendary JJ Righteous. Mushroomhead have always had a large lineup, but with 9 members, this is their largest to date.

1. Our Apologies
2. How Many Times
3. Devils Be Damned
4. Qwerty
5. Portraits of the People
6. Childlike (feat. Jus Mic)
7. This Cold Reign
8. We Are the Truth (feat. Jackie Laponza)
9. Son of Seven
10. For Your Pleasure
11. Worlds Collide
12. Graveyard Du Jour
13. Out of My Mind
14. Rumor Has It

With that history lesson out of the way, the new album The Righteous & the Butterfly was released in May of 2014. Due to the lineup change, a different musical approach is evident; however, it’s not a drastic departure from the band’s sound. Of note is the album title, which is dedicated to the band’s former photographer Vanessa (also Skinny’s wife), whom died in 2013, the Butterfly. It’s also dedicated to JJ Righteous, the band’s prominent guitarist from 1993 to 2001, whom died in 2010, the Righteous.

The first thing to address is the return of J Mann, the band’s other founding vocalist. As previously stated, the band now has 3 vocalists. Jeffrey Nothing is known for his distinctive style and haunting melodies. Waylon Reavis is known for his rough screaming and occasional clean singing. J Mann is known for his harsh metal vocals and rapping. All 3 of them have a very different style, and within moments, it’s easy to distinguish one from the other. The 3 of them manage to blend their styles quite well, taking turns during the appropriate times. The only complaint is the fact that J Mann drops his rapping skills, and mainly sticks to screaming, or the occasional low-toned flow, mainly during certain parts of the songs “For Your Pleasure” and “How Many Times.” It’s a shame, since J Mann has hidden talent when it comes to spitting lines, as evident by his former solo project or other older Mushroomhead songs such as “Big Brother” and “Bwomp.”

Jeffrey Nothing’s vocal style has changed dramatically over the past few years. Although his somewhat high-pitch is still noticeable, his voice seems to have taken a new path. Although on the previous album his passion was dwindled as evident by his delivery, Jeffrey picks it up for this album. Waylon Reavis shouldn’t be overlooked, as his brutal screams are still relevant. Now that he’s paired with J Mann, the two of them mesh together quite well.

There are only two features on this album. Jackie Laponza makes an appearance on the song “We Are the Truth.” Her stern vocals suit the music perfectly, and reminds the listener of older Mushroomhead tracks that would have a female vocalist. The other feature is on the song “Childlike,” which is Jus Mic, whom is J Mann‘s partner in the old sideproject rap group 10,000 Cadillacs. It’s a short song with minimal instruments, and only Jus Mic on vocals. Although J Mann and Jus Mic is a good pairing when it comes to rap, in this song, Jus Mic tries his hand at purely singing, and it sounds pretty awful. It doesn’t fit the pace of the album whatsoever, and his voice is a little bit too soulful for this project. It’s surprising that the band didn’t decide to at least pair him up with J Mann for a hip-hop track.

As previously mentioned, Church is the new guitarist for the band. The riffs are hard-hitting and consistent, thus it’s not really a huge difference compared to previous guitarist Gravy. There isn’t much variety going from song to song when it comes to the guitar, but fans of Mushroomhead is accustomed to this, so it fits well, regardless of the guitar player (with the exception of JJ Righteous, whom truly was a unique individual, as displayed on the band’s first 3 albums). It’s also refreshing to see that the bass makes a more prominent role in the band’s music. Although the bass lines aren’t very unique, it stands out a lot more than previous albums, possibly due to the introduction of new member Dr. F.

Since there’s 9 members, it’s hard to get everyone in at once. Although it happens, there are times where some members take a backseat and let the others take the spotlight. For example, parts of “How Many Times” has prominent bass picking, while the beginning of “Worlds Collide” has a very haunting guitar line. The keyboards, played by Shmotz, also seems more in place than any Mushroomhead album to date. Examples include when it’s solely backing Jeffrey’s delivery on “Graveyard Du Jour” or making a consistent burlesque influenced line on the first single “Qwerty.” Shmotz always has unique keyboard and piano leads, and this album is no different.

St1ch should also not be forgotten. As the band’s turntable and DJ master, St1ch usually cements Mushroomhead’s place in the industrial electronic world. He adds odd samples, such as the beginning of “Our Apologies.” He also adds various effects and scratching on certain songs; however, this album doesn’t feature as much electronic elements as previous albums. Although various elements pop up every now and then, St1ch doesn’t play a major role as he usually does, which is strange. This harks back to the previous statement where some members take a backseat during certain times, but it seems the DJ rarely comes forward on this album (with the exception of the last track).

The drummers Skinny and Roberto Diablo make a good pairing, creating hard-hitting beats and loops in nearly every song. “How Many Times” has a short breakdown towards the end, with the war drums making a haunting pace. Most of the songs don’t have that slow pace though, since Skinny belts out his fast skills on nearly every song. The founding member has proven his place in the drumming world for the past 21 years, so it’s no surprise that he continues to keep the rhythm alive and skillfully.

Mushroomhead fans also are heavy supporters for their crafted covers, ranging from the Pink Floyd song “Empty Spaces” to the Seal song “Crazy.” A notable track on this album is the last song, a cover of the Adele hit “Rumor Has It.” The original song is bland and slow paced, filled with the generic mainstream elements that any slow pop fan would enjoy. Mushroomhead takes this song, and almost like as if it was a dare, rips it apart. All 9 members show their true potential in this cover, and it’s easily one of the best recordings on the entire album. It consists of a heavy guitar riff, a prominent bass line, suited electronica scratching, an eerie keyboard lead, thumping custom percussion, a consistent drum rhythm, and 3 unique vocalists. These 9 elements tear open the less-than-three elements of the original song piece by piece.

To summarize, The Righteous & the Butterfly is a refreshing change in the band’s career. There are certain elements that ventures into the downside, such as a lack of lyrical variety (not the actual voices, but the words itself), and also certain members taking more of a backseat than others. The upside though is a lot more prominent, ranging from the return of J Mann, to certain members improving vastly compared to the previous effort. Mushroomhead blasts their way back into the acceptance of the metal world, and rumor has it they’re here to stay.

Favorite Tracks:

  1. Rumor Has It
  2. For Your Pleasure
  3. How Many Times
  4. Worlds Collide
  5. Qwerty

Length:

  • 50 Minutes 58 Seconds

Record Label:

  • Megaforce

Release Date:

  • 05/13/2014

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Websites:

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