Review Summary: While extremely cool that everything is completely fan-generated and highlights the band's commitment to "giving back" to its fans, this record of rarities will only appeal to the people who participated in the making of this album.
Primarily a collection of live cuts, demos, and acoustic renditions of studio recordings - but also sporting two original cuts in Dull Boy
and a cover of The Police
's King of Pain
- By the People, For the People
is Mudvayne's attempt to appease fans clamoring for a record of new material. The premise of this album was certainly admirable; for the ill-informed, the Peoria, Illinois-based quartet sought to make everything about the album, from the artwork ("Mudwurk") and photographs of Mudvayne tattoos inside the cover sleeves to the tracklist, completely fan-generated. The band held contests on it mySpace, where their fans could pick what songs (spanning The Beginning of All Things to End
to Lost and Found
, including their DVD All Access to All Things
) they wanted to appear on the record.
From there, the band accumulated those votes, arranged this album of rarities, and picked what version(s) of the songs (the aforementioned live cut, demo, or acoustic rendition were their options) would appear on By the People, For the People
. Each track (and the album itself) is preceded by a spoken-word introduction by vocalist Chad Gray, who shares what format the band selected, where and when it was recorded, and other short trivia tidbits. All told, there are thirty-three tracks on the album: the opener is an introduction to the album's aim, followed by sixteen cuts with sixteen matching introductions from Gray.
While this is potentially all very cool for a listener, By the People, For the People
is relatively inaccessible to first-time or casual Mudvayne listeners. As is often the case, only the most die-hard of fans purchase B-sides from artists, but one of the album's faults is repeated appearances of original songs found on previous records. For example, the tracks On the Move
were previously available as bonus tracks in the first pressings of 2002's The End of All Things to Come
. If the listener is a die-hard Mudvayne fan, it's a fair assumption that he/she would have purchased one of the first issues of The End of All Things to Come
. While it's understandable to include these cuts for fans who missed out the first go-'round, or to have a central album that houses Mudvayne's demos from the late 1990s to the present, it is nevertheless strange to have the previous two studio tracks re-emerge on an album. This argument carries into the live recordings of Dig
, and World So Cold
found on this album as well. While all three tracks are incredibly popular amongst the Mudvayne fanbase, the recordings are taken directly from their 2003 Summer Sanitarium tour. Why is this an issue? You can hear the exact same recordings on their DVD All Access to All Things
, released in 2003.
Another problematic characteristic By the People, For the People
has is the spoken-word introductions to each album. While Gray is notorious for his positive fan interactions and for speaking pragmatically and sensibly, he appears to introduce each track unscripted, as evidenced by his stammering and stumbling over himself in many of his mumbling introductions. A minor bone to pick to be sure, considering the introductions are typically less than a half-minute, but scripted introductions in a crystal-clear, articulate voice would have been preferred. All told, Gray's introductions represent another way the band gives back to its fans, and this personal touch is surely a welcome gesture due to the information he shares in them, but again, anyone outside of the die-hard Mudvayne fanbase likely will not get much out of these introductions.
By the People, For the People
's demos are as expected; they are grittier and rougher cuts in contrast to the polished cuts found on their previous albums. The demos also are different in many respects to the studio versions - the changes range from slight (see: most of the Lost and Found
demos, particularly Happy?
and Fall Into Sleep
) to pretty significant (Death Blooms
, Not Falling
, and Silenced
are three prime examples). Death Blooms
's demo is this album's highlight, and the differences between the L.D. 50
version and the demo are stark in contrast. In the introduction, Gray asserts that it was a "song that really stuck out to people on the initial demo" during its recording in Spring 1999, and it clearly shows. Bassist Ryan Martinie, just as he does on the original recording, absolutely dominates throughout the track. Stylistically, the track is altered in that the chorus immediately follows the first verse, whereas in the original recording, both verses precede the chorus. Further, the time signature and tempo changes that follow in the track occurs after an instrumental transition in the demo; in the official recording, this passage follows after a second chorus. These nuances in this song, as well as others (note the glaring difference in the Not Falling
demo's chorus compared to the official recording) are intriguing to hear because they illustrate how the band adjusts and tinkers with songs before recording the studio.
The two legitimately new tracks - Dull Boy
and King of Pain
- should appease fans. The former, which appears to be derived from, or at least influenced by, the classic novel/film The Shining
, is characteristic Mudvayne. To clarify, Martinie and drummer Matt McDonough absolutely slay on the track - they probably had a lot of time to be creative in their individual writing processes waiting for Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett to finish up with the honky-tonk disaster that is HellYeah
- while Tribbett chugga-chuggas along with the same bland riffs and progressions throughout the entire song. While King of Pain
is not the most popular Synchronicity
track, it is nevertheless a stellar song and one that Mudvayne covers extremely well. Gray is no Sting, but his raspy vocals add an appreciable dimension to the track. In addition, Tribbett shines on this track - yes, this includes the solos - and it begs the question if he will incorporate more into the band's newest album... if it ever gets released, anyway. King of Pain
begins on a mellifluous note, with Gray's "There's a little black spot on the sun today; it's the same old thing as yesterday . . . I have stood here before inside the pouring rain with the world turning circles running 'round my brain / I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign, but it's my destiny to be the king of pain" sounding hauntingly beautiful over the effect-laden guitar. As expected, the chorus is where you best hear Mudvayne's identity in the track; bold and explosive, Gray's harsher vocals kick in for the duration of the track while Martinie's basslines swiftly run underneath. Lastly, the acoustic version of Lost and Found
's Forget to Remember
is another surprising album highlight. The acoustic guitar parts sound excellent complemented with Gray's stripped-down vocals and an assertive rhythm section.
To conclude, By the People, For the People
is an innovative effort from Mudvayne because everything about the record is fan-generated, save for what versions of the selected tracks are heard. The band has prided itself on giving back to its fans, and they do not fail in doing so with this record. However, outside of the devout Mudvayne fanbase, it's difficult to argue that any other listener would appreciate the spoken-word intros, the gravelly sound that characterizes the demos, or discovering the different qualities between the demos and the official recordings. If you are new to Mudvayne, do not pick up this album first - stick to the slick, well-produced official recordings.
While the two new cuts give little indication as to whether or not Mudvayne is going to turn into HellYeah
2.0 or if they're going to stick by their traditional nu/alternative/progressive metal hybrid sound on their forthcoming album, it'd be impossible to figure out based on one original cut and one cover to begin with. So, in the meantime, the Mudvayne faithful should give this a listen, and while it's doubtful any other listener would get anything out of this record, the recommended listening should still be considered. In all, this release may accomplish its goal of tying fans over until the band's tentatively-set-for-mid-2008 release, but in the grand scheme of things, By the People, For the People
is an admirable effort that highlights Mudvayne's incessant desire to give back to their fans.
Adjust to a solid B if a devout Mudvayne fan; while not a must-own, it's probably a nifty collection of rarities.
Death Blooms (demo)
Forget to Remember (acoustic)
King of Pain
On the Move (listen to the rhythm section)