Review: “The Righteous And The Butterfly” by Mushroomhead

Cleveland Ohio natives Mushroomhead have often been a band that are underrated and mistakenly placed in the wrong genre. Partly due to their large number of band members, choice of makeup, masks and live theatrics. Their Avant Garde Metal sound takes influences from Heavy Metal, Alt. Rock and Electro-Industrial music. It has been 10 years an a mere 2 albums since the vocal partnership of Jeffery “Nothing” Hatrix and J Mann was broken up to allow the latter to spend time with his estranged father before his passing. In the interim Waylon Reavis stepped up for the cold and industrial sounds of 2006’s “Saviour Sorrow” while 2010’s “Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children” is a master class of an album. The announcement that J Mann was re-joining the band and Reavis would remain on board was greeted with more than a few raised eyebrows. How a trio would be able to balance what has worked well for a duo on the vocal front was just one of the questions fans would want the answer to.

The strangely titled “The Righteous and the Butterfly” was released in 2014 and takes its name in dedication to pair much loved by the Mushroomhead family. Founding former guitarist John “JJ Righteous” Sekula and drummer Steve “Skinny” Felton’s former wife Vanessa Solowiow, both having passed away between album cycles in 2010 and 2013 respectively. The album opens with “Our Apologies” and sees chugging guitar work delivered with at a decent pace, soaked in background electronics and pummelling rythum patterns. Use of atmospheric syth builds and direct vocals help to re-assure long term fans that they haven’t strayed from the path with their sound. “Too Many Times” sees each of the vocal trio take a couple of lines in turn during the verse while introducing an almost gang chant vocal during the chorus. The dark atmospherics of a Horror B movie continue to play a large part in the bands sound. Crossing over the clean and unclean vocals with more regularity than on previous work, the song closes out with a long atmospheric build into “Devils Be Damned”. A stompy barrage of rythems using a pause break to cross between a big clean chorus and a pounding driven unclean verse. The surprise is how well the trio of vocalists manage to each get a fair crack of the whip in front of the microphone.

“Qwerty” is has an off kilter almost sea shanty away to it as J Mann rap screams his way through some nonsensical lyrics that are privokative. The sound builds up from the sway with building, increasingly heavy guitars around a dark synth underpinning. It builds and builds and then cuts. “Portraits of the Poor” then changes the pace completely. A slow burn atmospheric and glorious keys are wrapped in some big clean vocals from Hatrix. The problem is that J Mann’s almost spoken word is a bit cringe-worthy in places. Lyrically however there is a glorious technicolor to the song. The riffage builds into a final corshendo before a piano over tumbleweed as “Childlike” starts. Jus Mic of 10,000 Cadillacs delivers a soulful vocal over the 104 seconds of building riffs and an infectious young child’s giggle at every mention of the songs title. The piano is in keeping with the previous song and they both flow well together, repeating something the band have done on previous albums.

“The Cold Reign” takes us back to the heavier side of Mushroomhead with pounding drum pattern over succato guitars inter playing neatly with a dark and atmospheric lead layer. There is also a hark back to “XX” with the repeated line “Never let it go” from the song of the same name appearing midsong. “We Are The Truth” sees a second guest vocal part with Jackie Laponza of Unsaid Fate joining Reavis, J Mann & Hatrix in taking turns to play their part and say their piece. A fairly standard drum groove with broken and sparce guitars and an industrial underpinning works well for the most part – as in the song is better than the sum of its parts – not as in its a great song – for our money it’s one that is over rated and wears incredibly thin when compared to some of the other material on offer – especially over multiple listens.

“Son of 7” then does the complete opposite, starting with some of the most impressive lead guitar work from Tommy Church and possibly the best in the bands career. The song is a powerful and driven affair that also contains an epic guitar solo and bright sing-a-long chorus alongside trademark Mushroomhead bounce and groove. “For Your Pleasure” then sees the situation turned on its head and each vocalist takes his turn in rap screaming or singing over a drum fill with buried electronics and piano with no guitars at all. But the pace builds and then the guitars kick in with a bridge very reminiscent of the one in “Eternal” from “XX” as the band perhaps unknowningly rework older song structures into the song. It does suffer from the occasional cringe-worthy moment but it’s another very solid piece of material. “Worlds Collide” takes the same cold industrial style of material from “Saviour Sorrow” with some driven riffage and direct in your face lyrics in places. It’s an effective track that would suit inclusion on a horror film soundtrack. “Graveyard Du Jour” sees Hatrix deliver a masterclass in clean vocal delivery while “Out of my Mind” depicts waring factions with politically charged undertones lyrically. These themes are then reflected in a powerful and dark horror video that sees torcher scenes and blood flowing freely. Including Adele cover “Rumour Has It” to close things out is an interesting touch. Mushroomhead did it previously with their cover of “Crazy” by Seal and it worked but twice is a stretch. Unlike “Crazy”, this version “Rumour Has It” is so cheesy that it could be some vague attempt at getting inclusion on a Punk Goes Pop compilation.

The problem with “The Righteous and the Butterfly” is that it feels like a collection of individual songs rather than an album. The flow is disrupted on a regular basis and some of the song writing ideas fall flat or have been heard previously. The storming success of the albums predicessor “Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children” and the return of the much loved J Mann to the fold after a decade should have delivered better results but sadly it doesn’t. That’s not to say it’s a bad album, it’s not, it’s just that having raised the bar last time out, this one falls short. [7/10]

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