Mushroomhead X X
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Musical acts dressing up in costume and make-up is not a new gimmick by any means. Ever since Kiss made it a successful means of marketing themselves, other acts have jumped on the bandwagon. Most have done it to hide a lack of talent. Most recently, you've had acts like Slipknot and Mudvayne dressing up to not only provide a sense on anonymity but to give a certain visual mentality to their music. So, when listeners see the masked ensemble that is Mushroomhead, they might immediately write them off as just another talentless wannabe.

But, once you delve into the core of their debut, X X, you'll see that Mushroomhead has some originality and something worth listening to, especially if you're a fan of the metal genre. This eight piece band features guitars, bass, samples, keyboards and dual vocalists, who provide a wide from hardcore death rasp to a passionate harmonic wailing. I'm sure if you're a fan of Slipknot, you'll look at this band as a quick cash-in, making assumptions about the similarities between the two acts. Fortunately, there is noticeable stylistic differences and Mushroomhead's focus on more traditional metal themes and heavy use of keyboards helps define the act.

Before I Die works fine as an opening track, thrusting power riffs and a raspy vocal assault at the listener. The surge of keyboard presence in the first track does wonders to persuade you that this act does in fact have it's own personality. Solitare Unraveling is one of the finer pieces that starts harsh and jagged and flows into a more passionate piece of music. The strong keyboard presence of These Filthy Hands, along with the almost contradictory vocals is very reminiscent of Faith No More. Just when you think you have a handle on Mushroomhead, they toss a track like Xeroxed out. Xeroxed is a brutal death metal track that beats away at you in the three minutes it has.

While the music is pretty well written and has a good range of sound, the vocal performances Jeffrey Nothing and J Mann really define the sound. The range that at one moment can carry a great harmony and the next did into violent ranting works so well with the harsh guitars, low-tone bass and gothic keyboards.

If Mushroomhead has a failing is that they try to have too wide of a range. While I appreciate musical acts that try not to be too shackled by their genre, the inclusion of certain elements, like the hip hop-styled vocals in Bwomp, just lessen the overall experience. And, the inclusion of Pink Floyd's Empty Spaces feels really unnecessary.

If you're looking for some fresh blood in your metal collection, give Mushroomhead a try. They do more than enough things right to be considered one of the better acts to come out in a predictable genre in some time.

- - Vane

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