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By antiGUY
The CD

Mushroomhead - XX
Label: Universal 
Before I Die
Solitaire Unraveling
These Filthy Hands
Never Let It Go
The Wrist
Chancre Sore
The New Cult King
Empty Spaces
Born of Desire
Fear Held Dear
Too Much Nothing
Episode 29
Bwomp (hidden Track)


On first glance some people will make the mistake of comparing Mushroomhead to Slipknot. Sure they wear masks and have an above average personnel roster with eight members, but truth be known Mushroomhead have been at it longer than Slipknot. Some even go as far as accusing Slipknot of stealing Mushroomhead's show. They have made a name for themselves on the metal underground with their outrageous vaudeville style stage show, but take the theatrics out of the picture and concentrate solely on the music and they deliver big time! “XX” is really a greatest hits from the band’s previous three indy releases that will now get national attention courtesy of Universal records. 

The music on Mushroomhead’s major label debut, “XX”, is vastly diverse; mixing elements of speed metal, nu-metal, prog, hard-core with a small dash of techno thrown in at times for extra flavor. Think Pantera meets Faith No More and Neurotica. In fact, Mushroomhead may be the closest thing to the original Faith No More feel we’ve ever heard from an outside band. It’s their Pantera chunky powerchords mixed with FNM keyboards and rhythms offset against speed metal primal screams coupled with Mike Patton’esq vocals that give the songs an added dynamic feel. If one song doesn't grab you just, fastforward because Mushroomhead cover a lot of territory musically, fusing various styles of heavy music to create an undeniably compelling sound that should appeal to a large cross section of heavy music fans. 

You could write these guys off because of their image and you’d be dead wrong! If metal fans look beyond the masks and stage show and listen to the songs then they will find one of the most viable metal-hybrid bands to hit the national scene in years. With Universal Records behind them, Mushroomhead is ready to breakout from the underground and take the world by storm. In this reviewers opinion I say, “bring it on!“

The Band
.Skinny - drums
J Mann - lead vocals
Jeffrey Nothing - lead vocals
Schmotz - keyboards
Pig Benis - bass
Gravy - guitar
Bronson - guitar
Stitch - samples

“Locked away in a cage / my rage has got the best of me / You don’t know peace’til you’ve had suffering I find this fight must be won inside the mind /So uptight and confined /often blinded by the light”

Mushroomhead’s music unfolds like a waking dream. At once surreal and vivid, intense and intelligent—and impossible to ignore both aurally and visually—the Ohio octet’s Universal debut, XX (Double X), delivers a left-of-center fervor, as evidenced in such songs as XX’s creepily compelling debut single, “Solitaire Unraveling.” And the time is certainly ripe for the masked marauders of Mushroomhead to unleash their highly musical, totally unusual, fully compelling onslaught on the public. Inked to Universal in late 2001, Mushroomhead’s XX was previously released independently, the updated Universal version remixed by Toby Wright (Alice In Chains) with three additional tracks added. And with the completion of the Dean Karr-produced video (Marilyn Manson) for “Solitaire Unraveling,” the always-impassioned, sometimes spooky soundscape that is Mushroomhead has reached an apex. Since 1993, when the Cleveland-bred octet formed as a side project, no other band was wearing masks and jumpsuits and purveying ultra-melodic, ultra-dramatic music as influenced by Faith No More and Mr. Bungle as it was by hardcore, metal and even techno. In XX, Mushroomhead’s years of hard work and hard music have come to a fearsome fruition.

“With the current climate in music, the playing field has leveled,” observes J Mann, one of Mushroomhead’s two lead singers. “Anything is possible now for us.” Musically, nothing is impossible, made clear on XX, Wright’s remix of their 2001 indie release on Eclipse Records now featuring “Fear Held Dear” and “Too Much Nothing,” as well as “Empty Spaces,” a cover of the Pink Floyd song found on The Wall. “We’re huge fans of the trippy, the analog, the spooky (as evidenced on aural adventures such as “The Wrist.”). Anything against what’s happening right now, we’re into!” laughs band  founder/drummer Skinny.

“The mainstream right now is very predictable, very safe, not much of it has substance. It doesnt come across as sounding honest to me. Mushroomhead looks at the song writing  process as an art form.” Mushroomhead write because they want and need to, from the oldest song on XX, “43,”to the most recent,”Before I Die,”which kicks off the album with double-kick fury. “J Mann and Nothing are the lyricists,” explains Skinny, and “they don’t write together, usually. They’ll bring their own thing to the table and throw it on tape. 

The two feed off each other. It’s not like verse-chorus, verse-chorus, though there is structure. In the long run, we care about the quality and integrity of the songs, we don’t write them just to write songs.” 

“I like to try and almost write in riddles and keep things continually new so it’s adaptable to whatever is going on with you at that moment,” furthers J Mann. “I’m fairly metaphoric.” On the record, but especially live, “everything ties together with samples, there’s no dead space. But,” Skinny explains, “our songs vary so much, that the continuation is dynamic, the whole set is a roller coaster, with our look matching our vibe and sound.” And Mushroomhead don’t fall back on the easy to make a point: ”I think there are four swear words on the entire album, and our previous album, none!” the band observes. “Hating and having a bad attitude is very easy. But being able to live and smile and be happy with what you’ve done with your life; that’s what difficult.”

As the lyrics indicate, Mushroomhead are no strangers to difficult times, though the  enigmatic eight-man lineup enjoyed huge regional success prior to Universal’s full-court press on the Cleveland conquerors that culminated in a deal. On their own, Mushroomhead sold 50,000 indie records; played with Marilyn Manson; were lauded in Guitar World, Revolver and CMJ; toured with W.A.S.P, hit Billboard’s indie charts; and have proven that Cleveland does, indeed, rock.

Back in ‘93, Mushroomhead’s impact was instantaneous. “We played our first show on a Saturday, and three days later, we got a call to play with GWAR at the Cleveland Agora in front of 2,000 people, our second show ever! We barely knew each other,” recalls J Mann. “And I’d never been in a band with two singers. But Jeffrey (Nothing) and I come from such different backgrounds, me being more rap and funk influenced and into Bad Brains and Black Flag, while Nothing is more old-school metal, which is one of our strengths.” It’s clear that Mushroomhead’s strengths are manifold, and with five indie releases under their collective jumpsuits, not to mention a buzz that was becoming a roar and stunning SoundScan numbers, the labels came calling. But for several years, Mushroomhead choose to stay indie and underground, writing, recording and growing on their own terms, starting their own label (Filthy Hands) with stellar success, as evidenced on records such as 1995’s Mushroomhead debut, 1999’s M3 and others. They’re also a cottage industry; the band books many of their own shows and tours, had been self-managed, and Skinny and J Mann head a record company, SMDC, that has released compilations of Cleveland bands as well as a wide variety of side projects by the Mushroomhead men.  But Mushroomhead is every members’ main focus, and it shows, as the band and their audience definitely groove together, from 14 to 44. “Skinny usually ends the show with hardcore techno music, and the fans get on stage as we’re ending,” explains J Mann. “Stage diving, stage dancing—that’s one of the coolest things about our band: Our shows don’t have a bunch of guys moshing and beating each other up. It‘s not your typical metal show. Plus, we’re constantly evolving, we’re constantly revamping within the context of Mushroomhead.” Come show time, “when Mushroomhead masks up, it’s like Clark Kent and Superman, like a split personality,” says J Mann. That said, J Mann, and sometimes Nothing, are the only members who wear face paint, as the mask constricts their voices and “masks” emotions, two elements crucial to Mushroomhead‘s unexpected and welcome nuances. At once atmospheric and emotional, brutal and powerful and rife with vocal and musical clarity, XX is like a movie, taking the listener through a full range of emotions and scenarios in the space of 15 cuts. And by joining Universal’s roster, Mushroomhead is happily melding their DIY philosophy with Universal’s “well-oiled machinery.” “By keeping the independent and underground sprit within a major-label context,” Skinny believes, “there’ll be no stopping Mushroomhead!” 

. . 

Want more?

Visit the official web site for news, media clips and tour dates! 

Listen to sound clips and Purchase the CD online

antiGUY is the Editor in Doubt of

Artwork, photo courtesy Universal Records. All Rights Reserved by Copyright Holder. 


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