Hmm (scratches head). In Mushroomhead, we get another entry to the vaudeville-metal sweepstakes headed up by Slipknot and Mudvayne and perpetuated by a frighteningly growing number of miscreants polishing up their schtick in their parents’ garages all across the Midwest (I should know • I live there). See, sad fact is, most of these tots forego the element that truly makes the two aforementioned bands stand out • precisely, their palpitatingly angular skronk-metal • in favor of the one that everyone superficially focuses on • namely, the schtick • justifiably rendering any musical “ambition” moot and dead on arrival. Well, as evidenced by XX, their fourth and latest full-length, Mushroomhead remembered to bring the songs along with their crazy-clown/gimp jumpsuits. A mysterious eight-man collective of Cleveland metal/hardcore vets (actually, not all that “mysterious” • I’ve learned that primary vocalist J Mann is actually Jayson Popson, ex- of In Cold Blood and Integrity’s 2000 record, and drummer Skinny similarly played on Integrity 2000, so there), Mushroomhead began life in the early ’90s and have been honing their metal/hardcore/industrial/techno hybrid over the course of three self-released albums. A reworking and remixing of its predecessors’ best cuts, the higher-profile XX displays these dudes as far less angular in sheer viscereality and perhaps a bit more approachable (musically, that is • the outfits are still plain wrong), but no less crushing or inventive, Mushroomhead filtering tranquil synths and such into a pummel-down-the-middle stutter-groove not too far removed from modern Pantera. Sometimes, all the disparate idioms (drum n’ bass, industrialized goth, and heavy hip-hop, among others) can be damn near overwhelming • or, at worst, just plain confusing in an ambivalent sort of way • but the eight-piece make a hefty, heady go of it, the undeniably disorienting material either ingratiating or grating with successive listens, so you know something alchemical is a’brewing. How well Mushroomhead channel this in the future is anyone’s guess, but I’ll be keeping a cockeyed gaze on ’em, that•s for sure.
Eclipse Records, PO Box 215, Butler, NJ 07405-025; http://www.mushroomhead.com