Review Summary: Mudvayne decide baby steps, not giant leaps, is the way to walk the path of musical redemption
Nostalgia's a great thing, isn't it? Flicking through one's collection of photos, observing moments of your life in snapshot, a record of a life well spent. The same could be said for one's music collection. Sifting through dusty cd's and vinyls, thumbing your way through memories of what each one meant to you and remembering how and why it earned itself a place in your collection.Was it an album that changed your perspective on how you looked at music? Perhaps an introduction to a new genre? Or was it an album that from the moment you first wrapped your headphones around your head and hit play that it instantly captivated you and wouldn't relent until the last track had signalled it's final bell toll?
One of these albums for me has always been L.D. 50 by Mudvayne. From the slow dissonant beginnings of 'Monolith' to the explosive rage poured all over 'Cradle' to the pulsating final riffs of'(k)now F(orever)' descending into the swirling vortex of 'Lethal Dosage' it held me, forced it's way into my consciousness and remained there long after the album had stopped. An all out assault on all senses, the album contained some of the most absorbing lyrics I had ever heard at the time, including a track where the singer had obviously taken to the encyclopedia of medicine with great aplomb and turned it into a visceral statement on an all consumed addiction.Musically the album held second to none for me at the time of release, (and to a degree, still does), featuring some of the most potent bass lines ever assembled for a supposed “nu metal” album, and a drummer who seemed at his best wreaking all havoc on his kit. The guitarist (while providing nothing entirely new to the genre) still managed to hold his own pumping out palm muted riff after riff, and allowing the bass to take the lead whenever his talents began to stray.
Upon it's release it was met with some acclaim and allowed Mudvayne the opportunity to further their musical ambitions with increased funding and bigger support from their label. Bringing renowned producer David Bottrill into the fold their follow up, The End Of All Things To Come, removed the very minimal filler and sought to streamline their collective efforts into a more cohesive outing. None of the malice and intensity was lost in the process and it seemed that Mudvayne were primed to move to the top of their respective genre. Then things started to go all pear shaped.
Their third album, Lost and Found, while maintaining an intensity in their music that was seldom present in many of their musical peers, also saw the band begin to flirt with the idea of “radio quality” in their music. While by no means a terrible idea, it sought to alienate many of their fanbase who had begun to throw the title “sellouts” around more than Tiger Woods likes to tee off when he's not on the greens these days.Then came The New Game, an album awash in mediocrity, mundane songwriting and half realised ideas. An album so far removed from their impressive beginnings that many people began to question whether this was nothing more than a practical joke. But given Chad and Greg's (singer and guitarist respectively) recent infatuation for what can only be described as “cowboy rock” fans resigned themselves to the fact that Mudvayne had simply hit the final nail in their coffin.Then came the word that a new album was on the horizon, rumors of a return to form were quickly confirmed by the band themselves and expanded upon. Fans around the world who had grudgingly accepted that 2 albums by this band were enough to retain memories of eagerly awaited news of a release. And then the album was put up for streaming.....
The album is bookended with “white noise”, but compared to the interludes on L.D 50 this doesn't seem to be part of some overarching theme, the only purpose it seems to serve is delaying the actual music.Out of the static first track 'Beautiful and Strange' comes blasting out of the gates, a welcome beginning that shows Mudvayne initially firing on all cylinders before settling comfortably into familiar territory with a mid-tempo palm muted riff accentuated with solid double kicking and the welcome return of Ryan Martinie on (audible) bass.Everything sounds remarkably solid, at least until Chad steps up to bat. Opening line “I've got a splitting headache, 2 aspirin for the pain” comes across as nothing more than a 14 year old's attempt at writing something meaningful on his or her's school desk. Even more cringe worthy is his delivery, a continuing bad judgement call that's been brewing since it's introduction on “Lost and Found”.The man's tenure in Hellyeah is not doing him any favours. To make matters even worse is not just the new delivery spewing from his lips or even the fact that it's anything new, on this record he is in fact trying to recreate his former glory days completely unaware that somewhere along the path he lost the ability to pull this off convincingly.
Second track “1000 Mile Journey” kicks off with a riff that brings to mind 'Mercy, Severity' off of TEOATTC or compilation track 'On The Move' with a fast paced start stop riff while Ryan pops and slaps with wild abandonment, it becomes quickly apparent that a good Mudvayne bassist is an unrestrained one.Chad picks his game up on this one, showing that all is not lost in the vocals department as he does a somewhat more admirable job in emulating his former self. See that's the case with this album, the band spends so much time worrying about what they used to sound like that there's nothing original to really be found here.The experimental nature seen in their beginnings it seems has been lost to the pages of music encyclopedias and to the fans that still give a damn about them.
The rest of the album continues in a similar fashion, showcasing ambitions of melding their obvious “metal” tendencies while simultaneously hoping for radio coverage by presenting a very “mainstream” approach to everything they're doing. What this results in for the listener however is what can only be an absolute definition of “hit and miss”. Tracks such as 'Beyond The Pale' and 'Out To Pasture' try, and manage to succeed in restoring some of lost faith one might have in the band, but in saying that 'Scream With Me' and 'All Talk' seem to do everything to stop the invigorated hope train from taking off.
Musically this album succeeds on many levels, mainly due to the welcome return of Ryan (who for all accounts and purposes was severely lacking on The New Game). Not content with merely following the guitar, he applies his talents admirably by, more often than not, taking the lead and sending his bass down paths few other guitarists rarely travel. Greg is up to his normal tricks, although an increased sense of melody is prevalent as well as continuing the trend he set on The New Game by once again including solo's into the fray, which are neither needed or wanted. Mudvayne never needed to rely on ill placed solos to get them through songs in the past, including them now makes them appear as no more than an ill advised trip into a more “hard rock” environment.Matt continues to shine as one of the most creative drummers on the scene, doing his utmost best to save any of the songs here from being considered too “watered down” by spicing things up with some interesting fills and seamless transitions into different time signatures.
This album is by no means without it's faults and is a long way off from a supposed “return to glory”, but it also shows an attempt at improvement, so at the very least it shows Mudvayne as aware of the dimming light that is their relevance in the music world. If anything this album does for me, it makes me question The New Game even more. While this was recorded after it, it was put together before “Game” was released, before fallout and opinions had a chance to influence Mudvayne's songwriting. Was it just an experiment gone decidedly wrong? This album will bring the fans back in droves as is there enough going on here to keep them happy compared to their recent recordings. Sadly for some though as they hold that dusty cover of L.D 50 in their hands one thing that'll undoubtedly spring to mind is “man, I remember the good old days”.