Review Summary: An album that really does try and go back to its roots.
Is it a fair to say Mudvayne are one of those rare bands that burned the candle at both ends from the beginning of their career?
Mudvayne formed in 1996 and released an EP titled “Kill I outta”, which was, to be honest, a little rough around the edges, but definitely showed signs of promise. Shortly after came the debut album ‘L.D 50’ where you’ll find an album containing blisteringly heavy riffs, technical musicianship a cool concept and some great lyrical content. The result was something quite different for the time – despite being lumped with the NU Metal scene - and was crazy to see the leap in quality since their EP release.
In 2002 the second album ‘The End of all Things to come’ was somewhat of a surprising departure from what was heard on L.D.50, aiming to be more accessible, while balancing some of the heavy sound found on the previous LP. The album was a big success and was well praised.
Past their second album things started to get a little rocky. While ‘Lost and Found’ had one of their biggest hit singles “Happy?” on the album, it was an even further departure from the technical, heavy sound of L.D 50 which ended up splitting the fan base.
To make matters worse, in 2007 Southern, Metal super group ‘Hellyeah’ formed with both Chad and Gregg as founding members, which also altered and stripped down Mudvayne’s sound even further.
2008’s album ‘New Game’ was so far removed from the sound fans had come to know and love, it was hard to see what went wrong. The album left us with a barely audible ‘Ryan Martine’, generic guitar solos (guitar solos?!!!) topped off with mundane vocals with some of the worst lyric writing imaginable --Just look up ‘Dull Boy’ and you’ll get the idea.
So, just a year on from the horrendous “New Game” the Mudvayne camp released this 2009 self titled album and I can thankfully say it’s a huge improvement over the last couple of efforts. The first track kicks in with an ambient noise, reminiscent of the interlude tracks of L.D.50--though baring no real meaning to the album like L.D 50 did--which then wastes little time in giving you a barrage of face melting heaviness, which would make any Mudvayne fan jump for joy. Ryan is now heard again, albeit not quite as prominent as he once was, the core sound is back to the roots and Chad has some solid moments on here, too.
Songs like 1000 Mile Journey and Beautiful and Strange bear the hallmarks of what made Mudvayne great, while songs like All Talk, which is a very bass driven track and closing track Dead Inside, give a nice variety. There is also a nice little touch in the album where there are little instrumental parts that are played in-between songs; these parts form a section in the song Out to Pasture that is played later on in the album. I thought this was a cool little touch and it pays off really well, because it’s a cool song.
However, there are some downsides to this LP. While there are a lot of great tracks on offer, some of the songs like Heard It All Before and Closer suffer from awkward transitions or parts that don’t fit with the tone of the song, which ruined my enjoyment a little bit. This is a shame; because at least every song had a great riff to offer, but it doesn’t always pay off.
One of my biggest complaints about this album though, and it’s one that has stuck with the band for a fair few years: solos. I’ve always found that this band has never needed the use of guitar solos, the rhythm section has more than held up the excitement of the songs Mudvayne have written over the years. You’ll find a solo on almost every track on this album, and for the sake of the band moving forward as artists I’d be happy to hear them in the band, if they weren’t so damn generic. They don’t fit with the band’s sound and I constantly get a Hellyeah vibe from them, so when I got to the peak of a song I was constantly getting knocked back by these solo’s which felt like they’re being force fed to you.
Chad’s lyrics this time round range from good to god awful. All Talk, which I interoperate as Chad talking to fans about the constant hassle he’s had over the years about his lyrics getting dumbed down from album to album, is lyrically solid and it’s basically him saying in the end it doesn’t matter what he talks about, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s actually one of the best songs on here and the lyrics are really well done, but as you’ll find throughout the whole album you can hear the Hellyeah moments creeping in at times. In All Talk’s case it’s when the song gets to the bridge and he says “Like a monster that hides in your closet, it’s creeping closer, but we don’t care, are we going insane, is this just a game, then I don’t want to play”. It’s cringe worthy to say the least and you’ll find moments like that scattered around the whole album, Closer and Scream With Me being the worst for it. But then, you get to songs like Dead Inside where both lyrically and vocally he kills it.
My final thoughts with this album are positive ones. Mudvayne made a conscious effort to try and get the band back to their former glory. The rhythm section was really, really enjoyable (Ryan’s bass playing is still amazing and Matt’s drumming doesn’t need an explanation) and despite Chad being hit and miss on some of the songs, he more than makes up for it when he gets it right.
If this is the album Mudvayne leave their career at, I can think of worse places to end it.
Worth checking out.