Sound: Mushroomhead, the band that has seen it's share of conflict with Slipknot for their similar set up and garb, is back with a new record, new singer, and unfortunately, not enough consistently creative ideas. The independently released Savior Sorrow has some musically innovative moments that feature inspired hooks and melodies, but for the most part the songwriting does not make as big of an impression as previous albums. While plenty of attention will probably be focused on the introduction of new vocalist Waylon (goes by one name only), it is the other vocalist, Jeffrey Nothing, who carries much of the record.
The band's last record VIII was one of their best, with the single Sun Doesn't Rise, a haunting track that featured several different musical components that fit together seamlessly. But with Savior Sorrow, Mushroomhead (vocalists Jeffrey Nothing and Waylon, guitarist Gravy, bassist Pig Benis, keyboardist Shmotz, drummer Skinny, and Stitch on sample/turntables) frequently goes astray from that promising sound by focusing on overly basic hooks that repeat themselves over and over again. While the down-tuned, up-tempo chords that begin in many songs offer a dark and somewhat powerful feeling, they also become trite when that's all you end up getting by the end of the song.
Despite the disappointing trend many of the songs take, Mushroomhead do offer some inventive aspects on Savior Sorrow. Damage Done starts off with some nice effects from a sample, the song then explodes suddenly into a wall of guitar distortion. But what truly makes the song stand out from the rest of the CD is when what sounds like a sitar makes an entrance out of nowhere. With the song being primarily guitar-driven, the sound of a South Asian instrument -- or perhaps just handy keyboard work from Shmotz -- adds a whole other level that listeners might not expect.
Probably the most under-utilized part of the band is vocalist Nothing. Every time Nothing sings, he adds a fascinating, powerful quality to Mushroomhead and at times comes extremely close to sounding like Alice In Chains' Layne Staley. The band probably would be better off featuring Nothing's vocals during the times when the monotonous guitar seems to overtake their songs -- there just needs to be some other aspect than one guitar line repeated over and over again to make songs like Tattoo salvageable. In that particular song Waylon is the featured vocalist, whose vocals sound a bit too much like the harsh, unrelenting rhythmic sounds that the rest of the instruments are making. // 8
Lyrics: Mushroomhead's Savior Sorrow concentrates on emotional, introspective themes, and the band is able to communicate their ideas effectively. While not all of the tracks stand out as being lyrically original, there are a few that deserve to be read a little closer.
The theme of mistrust pops up a few times on the CD, and the song Erase The Doubt uses some interesting imagery to convey the band's thoughts. Vocalist Nothing sings, Come down from your thrown; And tear off your wings; Do you still feel so above; After the arrows sting? While the whole song does not carry the metaphor through, the opening line is an intriguing way to get the song started.
There is an emotional honesty that is heard throughout the record that Mushroomhead fans will definitely appreciate. Considering that the band does have a harder-edged persona with all of the members wearing X-face masks, a song laying emotions on the line is refreshing. In Save Us, there seems to be a plea not only within himself, but to humanity in general, to make a positive change. Vocalist Nothing sings, And it's all I've ever wanted to believe; That peace could grow inside of you; inspire of me humanity; I hope you're out there somewhere. Musically, the composition fits the lyrics to a tee and eases back on the distortion to convey the heartfelt lyrics. // 9
Overall Impression: Mushroomhead has a lot of emotion behind their songs, and it's evident in both the distortion-heavy tracks as well as the stripped-down songs like Erase The Doubt. While the latest album is short on guitar hooks, vocalist Jeffrey Nothing and the lyrics really have the job of carrying the album. Unfortunately, too many times monotony takes over and the band forgets to add a little bit of variety into the mix. A few more riffs sprinkled throughout the album would have made a tremendous difference.
The band has proved themselves in the past of creating songs that are immediately memorable and musically strong. Savior Sorrow does tend to get stuck on one guitar line too much of the time, but with the added extras like keyboards and sampling, the band still is capable of bringing something new to the table. While the latest record is not exemplary of Mushroomhead's best, Jeffrey Nothing's vocal style should still be recognized as one of the most distinct in the rock world today. // 8