Mushroomhead - A Wonderful Life review

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Band: Mushroomhead
Album: A Wonderful Life
Release date: June 2020

01. A Requiem For Tomorrow
02. Madness Within
03. Seen It All
04. The Heresy
05. What A Shame
06. Pulse
07. Carry On
08. The Time Has Come
09. 11th Hour
10. I Am The One
11. The Flood
12. Where The End Begins
13. Confutatis

2020 is playing a cruel joke on humanity surely? With many bands delaying albums, Mushroomhead step in to fill the void, with their first album in six years providing a distraction from world events by changing the conversation from horrendous topics to questions like "are they still going?".

A Wonderful Life is a mostly boring affair; it is to metal what Imagine Dragons is to indie: dull and repetitive, something you will tire of in short order. Where the band felt fresh back in their Superbuick days, the world has moved on while Mushroomhead sound dated and sterile now. Those who have stuck around since will be disappointed that the album is not a patch on The Righteous & The Butterfly; it has the potential but not the realization of said potential.

The overuse of the loud/quiet structure leaves the album feeling very predictable and monotonous. The few times the band alter this approach or offer up a track of enough quality for you to overlook this pattern is often swallowed up by the sheer scale of the album at two minutes shy of an hour, like looking for needles in a haystack. There is making up for lost time and then there is overload; choosing quantity over quality, you are left with an album with so many dull moments your patience will wear thin quickly. Tracks like "Pulse" and "11th Hour" seem like needless tangents to nowhere, and if you're a 'It's not the destination but the journey' type of thinker then I'm afraid you're just as out of luck; the journey is just as tedious.

Many of the songs start and suddenly step back into the background as they play, as if they have stage fright and do not wish to be the centre of attention as they play out. "The Flood" or "Where The End Begins" sound like backing tracks that are never built upon; the band mixed the ingredients together and serve you up the raw, uncooked songs as the final product.

It is not an album without redeeming moments or features though; Mushroomhead may not be the most revered band but credit where credit is due, they are capable of writing some good songs, A Wondeful Life is evidence of this, with some good songs and musicianship that show it is unfair to write the band off. "A Requiem For Tomorrow" and the Mike Patton-esque vocals of "Madness Within" do start the album off on a strong foot, though from there you play hop scotch to reach the other scattered ok tracks.

"Time Has Come" creates a broody and threatening introduction before picking up and turning into a goth-tinged industrial track (answers if that means it's steampunk on a postcard) that balances energy with the broodiness that set the scene. "Carry On" and "I Am The One" are good listens that seem like a bounty of quality given the setting, well worth a listen and will rouse you from the malaise A Wonderful Life produces.

"What A Shame"'s circus refrain and organ-like keyboards give the song a sense of sinister menace that works well, acting like the soundtrack to a haunted house fairground ride. The band have direction and when they focus on it their sound works well; rather than sounding listless, it creates an atmosphere that you want to listen to.

What Mushroomhead excel at is the creation and utilization of sonic backgrounds that help fill in the gaps left by the other instruments and set the atmosphere well. Thomas' role may seem minor but it is probably the highlight of the record; his work behind the keyboard and blending of samples into Mushroomhead's sound provides a foundation from which the band stumble off of rather than build from. Given the band focus on song craft rather than individual performance, he is the only person other than the vocalists that really get to stand out and this sense of personality adds a bit of dimension to the music.

The album is well produced, balancing the band's duality of heavy and atmospheric without either sounding like the weaker partner of the two, transitioning between the two with ease rather than a clunkiness. Each instrument sounds like it is in the foreground and has space to breath in the vast room that is the album, which is a feat in and of itself given there are nine members in the band to balance in the mix.

A Wonderful Life isn't a comeback record that I would recommend; rather than seeing the band show purpose and vitality in the interim, they seem to have aged and lost their way somewhat. Mushroomhead are better than this; hopefully in retrospect this album can be chalked up as a mis-step, until then however we are left with an album that makes you look at the band's past rather than a potential bright future.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 5
Production: 8


Written on 30.06.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 61 users
01.07.2020 - 13:06

Yeah, definitely a weaker album from them. I thought keys were terrible, sounded cheap and overused. the album sounded old and tired to me. The inclusion of female vocals sounded forced and unnecessary, and the whole thing just sound unfinished.
Big props to new clean vocalist Steve Rauckhorst though, the only highlight for me.
01.07.2020 - 16:09

'Savior Sorrow' was where I closed the case on Mush Head. It's also around that point in time when I reflected upon why I was even interested in what the band did.

Having never been a Slipknot fan, I suppose MH kindled my interest in the veiled identity camp. It never went mush (bad joke) further beyond that.
03.07.2020 - 18:34

Since I was a huge fan of nu-metal / alternative metal back in the day, I could say this album sucks big time, it's more like a "softer" mushroomhead album and of course is triggered by all the drama of the past few years with the new girl in the band, imo everything that is wrong with this album is exclusively due to that
Be more like Funriz

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