I've crossed paths with MUSHROOMHEAD a few times over the years, once sharing the stage with them on a panel at a horror convention in Chicago at which they also played (part of my gig in a past life), and have enjoyed watching - and hearing - their evolution. Nine-members strong, the masked band has been around for over two decades, most recently adding a third vocalist to the mix with the return of Jason "J Mann" Popson, who joins Jeffrey Nothing and his one-time replacement, Waylon Reavis to lead the assault.
While most bands sound tired eight-albums in, MUSHROOMHEAD comes off as more polished - both sonically and visually - this time around, energized with new members in the mix, and the string section completely replaced with Tommy Church making his recorded MRH debut on guitars, and "Dr. F" on bass. The end result is an album that is both urgent, yet slightly uneven, but in the past two months has secured a place as one of my favorite albums of 2014 thus far, as I grow more fond of it with each listen.
Album opener "Our Apologies" should've been the first song out of the gate to radio, a simple, yet anthemic beast that's accessible enough to grab new listeners that might not be as inclined to embrace the more avant-garde side of MUSHROOMHEAD, a side well-represented here on tracks such as "Graveyard Du Jour," "For Your Pleasure," and the first video release, "QWERTY."
The contrast between the more straight-forward and aggressive tracks and the experimental makes for an interesting ride, and one of the more surprising moments comes at the end of the album, where MUSHROOMHEAD put their spin on ADELE with a dramatic reimagining of her massive hit, "Rumor Has It." Having already reworked SEAL's "Crazy" into a minor hit of their own back in 2003, I fully expect that this latest cover will grow legs in the months ahead.
With THE RIGHTEOUS & THE BUTTERFLY having made it's debut at #20 on the Billboard Top 200 (a well-deserved career high for the band), Summer 2014 should be a good one for MUSHROOMHEAD, as the band begins touring with AVENGED SEVENFOLD, KORN, ASKING ALEXANDRIA, TRIVIUM and more on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which kicks off this weekend in California. One of their most high-profile tours in recent years, it's a prime opportunity for new fans to experience MUSHROOMHEAD the way I got hooked - by seeing them live.