Sound — 8
Apart from a brief outro solo on "Almost Gone" from XIII, Mushroomhead never really bothered with guitar solos, instead letting its keyboards, samples, and haunting vocals define the band's sound. Here on "Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children", guitarist Gravy explores new playing styles. "The Harm You Do" has a very bluesy tone throughout (almost reminiscent of Load-era Metallica), "Your Demise" features shredding to its full degree, and "Come On" boasts an aggressive riff only backed by the gang vocals. Outside of the guitar, the band's keyboard, provided by Schmotz, has not changed. Whether it provides haunting passages or soothing melody, the keyboard has always been the primary instrument of Mushroomhead, and nothing much has changed on "Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children". Standout tracks on keyboard include "I'll Be Here" and the album closer "Do I Know You?", which provides that moment of clarity we all could use. One of my favorite songs on here is "Inspiration", which boasts a Mortal Kombat-esque intro and a great rhythm to boot.
Lyrics — 7
The trend of lyrics that stare the world right in its face and rip it apart continue on "Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children". It isn't so much the lyrics itself that wow me, it's how they're delivered. Waylon switches from his J Mann screaming on "Inspiration" ("A storm is coming to hell with redemption, save yourself and hear the word of the fallen") and "Burn The Bridge" ("Burn the brides and try to tie the lies together in verses of worship and pain, all that remains") to soulful crooning on "The Harm You Do" and the epic closer "Do I Know You?" My complaint about "Do I Know You?" is that it ends before it's properly built up, and is centered around only four lines. Waylon's vocal delivery makes up for it though. As for Jeffrey Nothing, he belts it out stronger than he ever has. The highlight for Jeffrey has to be "Come On", where you can tell he's prepared to go to war with his enemy - be it his haters, politicians, or anyone looking for a scrap.
Overall Impression — 8
When I listen to this album, I definitely hear the side projects creeping into Mushroomhead's core sound. Songs have me reminded of Jeffrey Nothing's solo album ("The Feel"), Tenafly Viper ("Come On"), and Ventana ("Darker Days"). They have found a way to mix in their newest outings with their older material, and though it doesn't break ground, it definitely sounds fresh. I thoroughly enjoyed this album, and look forward to seeing where Mushroomhead's evolution takes them next.