Mushroomhead- ‘A Wonderful Life’ Review

Constantly evolving their sound and their lineup, Mushroomhead are back with their eighth studio album.

Unjustly shunned by many in the metal scene due to their similarity to Slipknot, Mushroomhead have become one of the most overlooked bands of recent years. Now, following the release of their eighth studio album, A Wonderful Life, it is the time to put the feud aside and appreciate potentially their strongest album to date.

An album of refinement, maturity and obscurity, A Wonderful Life perfectly showcases Mushroomhead’s distinctive sound whilst simultaneously encompassing issues of the current climate.

Aptly discussing the issues prominent in society alongside a slightly obscure, disjointed sound, the album reflects the turmoil of the post-pandemic society in which it was created. 

Influenced by an array of bands including Pink Floyd, Pantera and Mr Bungle, Mushroomhead utilise A Wonderful Life to bring together the multiple elements throughout their music. Varying from the heavier, Avatar-style hits, ‘Madness Within’ and ‘What A Shame’, to the more stripped-back and emotional tracks such as ‘The Heresy’ and ‘Pulse’, the album incorporates elements of maturity alongside their signature abstract sound.

Opening with the ominous choir chant in ‘A Requiem For Tomorrow’, A Wonderful Life instantly sets listeners up for the majestic, refined sound of the album soon to follow. By incorporating each element of their music, from the refined piano sections to the heavier, more chaotic sections in the opening track, Mushroomhead go to prove they are refusing to let their past comparisons interfere with their present.

For devoted fans of the band, the incorporation of Jackie LaPonza, who has toured with them since 2014, into a full-time member of the band (featuring her new alias, Ms. Jackie), offers a new breath of fresh air into A Wonderful Life.

Deviating away from their sometimes-overwhelming obscurity in previous albums, A Wonderful Life instead seeks to find the balance between Mushroomhead’s distinctive and unorthodox sound with a more accessible, commercialised undertone.

In a similar way to Ghost, those unacquainted with the band would be forgiven for mistaking their theatrical, nefarious image on stage with the music they capture in the discography. ‘The Time Has Come’ and ‘11th Hour’ all demonstrate this best. The eloquence and simplicity of the piano melody and heart-rending vocals of LaPonza in each of the songs bring a new sense of beauty into the album, allowing the band to find a new sense of nuance in their extensive discography.

However, the new elements of Katatonia-style refinement in A Wonderful life are by no means to be confused with a deviation away from the sound that the band found fame upon. ‘I Am The One’ and ‘To The Front’, for instance, are still able to find the perfect blend between their art-inspired, avant-garde heaviness of their earlier hits with their new elegance as the band pushes further into their twenty-seven-year career.

As for the remainder of the album, the heavy, industrial-metal sound subsides as it makes way for a more regal, instrumental pieces. ‘Confutatis’ and ‘Lacrimosa’ provide a simplified, choir-based closure to the extensive album, reminding fans that, once and for all, the band are more nuanced than a simple ‘Slipknot knock-off’ and are demanding recognition for the diversity throughout their work. 

A Wonderful Life is out now via Napalm Records and available on all streaming platforms.

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