The Righteous & The Butterfly is the eighth full length effort from industrial metal band Mushroomhead and it signals the return of original vocalist J-Mann, bringing their member count up to nine; three of which are just pure vocalists.
They say variety is the spice of life and Mushroomhead’s trio of vocalists definitely give great diversity and depth to many of the tracks. One of the (many) issues with the predecessor Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children was a lack of vocal creativity, especially on Jeffery Nothing’s part, as his wailing vocals were too prominent and lacked the aggressiveness that many of the songs required. Thankfully on The Righteous & The Butterfly there is an equal sharing of vocal duties and more importantly a wiser selection of vocalist for each part. The verse sections on Out Of My Mind are the best example of this; J-Mann and Jeffery Nothing take alternate lines, creating a juxtaposition between J-Mann’s harsh raw with Jeffery Nothing’s wail. Combining these elements with a driving guitar riff bring back memories of their superb fifth album XIII, making Out Of My Mind one of two standout tracks from the album.
The other standout track is For Your Pleasure. This opens with a piano riff that provides the backing for one of J-Mann’s rap-styled verses, which is a technique used very often during the early J-Mann days, most notably in The Wrist and Fear Held Dear. The old-style Mushroomhead doesn’t finish there; Jeffery Nothing’s vocals are brilliantly chilling and the pre-chorus utilises thumping piano staccato combined with guitar chugs, like those littered across their compilation album XX.
However, his vocal performance across the album isn’t flawless. Often his performance feels weak, as his voice has to really strain to sustain notes, making many sections feeling less-than-coherent. On the bridge section of World’s Collide he sounds like a parody of himself, as he warbles through every note, leaving you wondering whether he will collapse before the guitars take over again and this issue of forced vocals reappears during This Cold Reign and to a lesser extent on How Many Times.
Along with Graveyard Du Jour, World’s Collide and This Cold Reign make up a trio of disappointing songs. Aside from the vocal problem, This Cold Reign fails to get started. The song’s whole structure and content is generic and repetitive, producing a track that ultimately doesn’t really accomplish anything, apart from merely existing. The same problem bogs down World’s Collide; a track that after my second listen I had to skip altogether. Graveyard Du Jour suffers from a different problem though. It begins as a chilling take on a nursery rhyme piano motif, but doesn’t make the most of the opportunity. The horror aspect feels gimmicky and is quickly left behind, leaving something that is akin to winning a relay race, before releasing you dropped the baton half-way around.
But there is a lot to celebrate on this record too. Qwerty shows that Mushroomhead can still experiment successfully like they did on the earlier albums. A sinister orchestral riff soon evolves into crushing guitars, meanwhile J-Mann gives a fantastic vocal performance that might as well be him screaming “did you miss me?”. His contributions to Devils Be Damned have a similar effect; his aggression throughout the verse is almost disturbing, meanwhile Waylon shows his vocal versatility providing both his clean and screamed voice.
Portraits Of The Poor and Childlike are the two mellower cuts from the record and show Mushroomhead can also craft beauty. On both tracks Shomtz’s piano takes centre stage and combines well with Jeffery Nothing’s powerful melodies on Portraits Of The Poor and also with guest vocalist Just Mic’s voice on the short ballad Childlike. The other guest vocalist contribution comes from Jackie LaPonza on We Are The Truth, who is almost outshone by the superb guitar work, especially the rolling, Led Zeppelin-style guitar riff. Elsewhere Church‘s guitar doesn’t stand out too much, except for the solo sections of Son Of 7, which unfortunately can’t be truly appreciated, as guitar leads tend not to gel well with the percussive march of Mushroomhead’s brand of industrial metal.
The album closes on an almost unrecognisable cover of Adele’s Rumour Has It. The backing vocals in the introduction are replaced by growling synth swells and at the ‘rumour has it’ sections of the original are replaced by a dubstep inspired riff. Aside from the comedic value of the chorus, Mushroomhead do a good job in creating a cover that could pass as an original song and unlike most metal pop covers, Rumour Has It actually adds something to the album.
The Righteous & The Butterfly shows Mushroomhead that have had their creativity and passion re-ignited. Whilst many are attributing this change to the return of J-Mann, I believe its source is in the new writing unit of duo of Church and Dr. F, who are both performing for the first time with the band. Whatever the reason the record feels like a new group and gives us confidence that Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children was a one-off, not a downward spiral. Sadly the album’s overall score is let down by a handful of unnecessary tracks and some vocal imperfections, but I believe with a revision to the playlist The Righteous & The Butterfly could sit happily alongside fan and critic favourite XIII.
Just in case you were wondering, here’s how I would order the album:
- Out Of My Mind
- Devils Be Damned
- Portraits Of The Poor
- How Many Times
- Our Apologies
- We Are The Truth
- Son of 7 (minus the guitar solos)
- For Your Pleasure
- Rumour Has It
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Not long ago I gave a brief overview of Mushroomhead’s history, whilst also looking forward the release of their eight full length effort: https://rockatlantic.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/a-short-history-of-mushroomhead/