Review Summary: Mudvayne's most ambitious LP to date and one the band never got back up from.
The year 2000 was not only the start of a new millennium, it was a time where the commercial peak of the Metal strand known as NU-Metal flourished most; bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Slipknot and Disturbed were the spear heads for the genre. NU-Metal was a strange and exciting time (for what little time it was around) and nobody really knew what you had to sound like to be classed as NU-Metal, this problem led to anyone and everyone being boxed into the genre: Deftones, System of a Down – hell even Tool was attempted to be placed into the category at one point. It was a crazy time, for a crazy genre of music, and whether you loved it or loathed it, it was a time where creativity was limitless, and barriers were brought down.
If you got asked what NU-Metal is most would think of a band with members wearing sportswear and baggy jeans, or colourfully camp haircuts with loads of chains and jewellery hanging off them. The vocalist amalgamating rap and singing in songs, while the guitarist/guitarists play simple drop D guitar tuned power chords, over a DJ scratching on his desk. When you delve into the lyrical subjects, you’ll find the majority touch on angst teens wanting to hurt themselves or cringe-induced songs shouting about smashing stuff up. Though I love the genre for its time, there is no denying the description of a NU-Metal band seems regressed when compared to any other time in Metal’s history. But, as with any genre of music, conventions can sometimes be thrown out the window.
Mudvayne is one band in particular that is very well known for being a NU-Metal band, but they were placed left-field from the pack of chanting, baggy pants wearing idiots. If there was ever an underground side to the genre, they were taken more to that side of NU-Metal.
L.D 50 was produced by Garth "GGGarth" Richardson and had Shawn “Clown” Crahan from Slipknot as Executive Producer. This album not only brought a much needed intelligence to the genre, but it brought an insane amount of technical musicianship and heaviness to the table. “Dig”, one of the bands most well known tracks to date, is one of the more NU-Metal sounding tracks on the LP, but the moment it kicks in from the introduction interlude track, “Monolith”, you know the band is quite different to anything else you’ll have heard; Chad’s screams collide with Ryan and Matthew’s colossal rhythm section bringing an unbelievably raw aggression to the band’s sound. "Dig" keeps a fairly melodic and straight forward structure, catering to the technical freak as well as the casual listener.
What makes L.D 50 so different from anything else at the time was the way the band played. The tired formula of guitar doing the heavy lifting wasn’t present in Mudvayne and the heavy duty went to Ryan Martinie and Matthew McDonough; Ryan’s unique finger-tapping and slap bass technique not only showcased his skills but brought a surprising amount of depth and heaviness in places you wouldn’t have thought, while Matthew brought a certain virtuosity to his playing adding more layers and heaviness to what Ryan was playing, the end result from songs like “-1” and “Death Bloom” create an untameable animal sound, and an album with countless odd times and rhythm changes.
Gregg’s guitar playing is considered lacklustre to many on this record, but it’s actually his contributions that are the integral part to the albums sound. Gregg takes the backseat on L.D 50 and becomes more of the rhythm section for the band, mainly playing power chords and backing up Ryan’s bass parts. It’s this recipe from the three members that create such a refreshing and exciting sound.
The band refers to the albums technical style as “Math Metal”, but it fuses several different styles throughout. Elements of Death and Speed Metal are constantly prevalent, but there’s an undertone of Jazz Fusion nestled within the albums tracks as well as Hardcore and the obvious NU-Metal elements. You’ll come across a crazy amount of variety on the album too, “Under the Skin” is an undeniable NU-Metal track, complete with a rap breakdown, which sounds like standard affair from early Slipknot works; “Pharmaecopia” which sends you on a prog like journey for its 5 and a half minute length; “(K)now (F)Orever” will throw Dillinger Escape Plan style rhythm changes at you; while “Nothing To Gein” will feed your need for fantastic melodies.
All of this sounds like an album for an acquired taste, but in actual fact L.D 50 is surprisingly easy to digest, thanks largely to Chad’s versatile vocal range. To a layman who enjoys music for how they hear it, Chad manages to take the complex music and make it sound almost mainstream. Vocally Chad consistently shines throughout the albums 17 tracks, “Death Blooms”, “Nothing to Gein”, “Everything And Nothing”, “Severed” and “(K)now (F)Orever” really show his range of guttural lows to soaring highs, but my credit goes to how he handles an album that would sound like an obscure avant-garde record given to anyone else, but he brings it to a level ground of fairly easy listening.
The albums lyrical themes talk about pharmaceutical medication, as well as topics tackling personal demons, the infamous Ed Gein murderer, drug addiction and self worth. More interest comes from the interlude tracks however, “Monolith”, “Golden Ratio”, “Mutatis Mutandis”, “Recombinant Resurgence” and “Lethal Dosage” which all tie together forming the theme based on “A 2001 Space Odyssey” or Terrance McKenna’s theory on how man gained self-consciousness through eating psychedelic mushrooms. However you look at the albums lyrics, they are well thought-out and are interesting to look into.
When you look at L.D 50 today, it’s aged really well. L.D 50 is fast, hard, aggressive and intelligent. There are very few bands from the NU-Metal era that can say they brought out an album with the same kind of boundary-pushing quality, musicianship and hard work as L.D 50; the irony is that Mudvayne will spend the rest of their career fighting to reach the same quality this album brought to the table.