It's been a long three years for Cleveland-based shock metallers MUSHROOMHEAD. They changed vocalists, changed labels, changed masks (not that anyone over 14 should care) and watched their public profile diminish slightly as their media-inflated “feud" with SLIPKNOT was allowed to fade into obscurity. Making the move from Universal to Megaforce seems to cement the group's return to big regional powerhouse, after a flirtation with taking on the world – this is not a musical comparison at all, but it's kinda like when INSANE CLOWN POSSE had their fifteen minutes of fame. The hype is over, they can still pack 'em in at home and fill small clubs across the country, but you definitely get the feeling the band is on the downward side of their peak.
It's been many years and beers ago, but didn't MUSHROOMHEAD used to have a wildly diverse, all-over-the-map sound that owed as much to FAITH NO MORE as to MARILYN MANSON as to METALLICA? All I'm hearing on "Savior Sorrow" is warmed-over industrial metal angst, the played-out riffs and I'm-so-fucked-up lyrics that were overbaked clichés at the turn of the decade, leavened only occasionally with interesting ideas.
It'd be tempting to lay the blame at the foot of new singer Waylon, but he sounds enough like his predecessor J. Mann to fit the bill just fine (although his clean vocals are just off-key enough at times to grate). The problem is the material – hookless, unflattering and clunky, these songs do little but spin their wheels in a morass of recycled ideas and surprisingly joyless, non-rocking riffs dressed up in dated electro-noise production.
Examples of laziness abound: Waylon bellowing "gonna break shit up!" over a bone-basic KORN riff in "Damage Done" is one of the worst moments. With a few cosmetic changes, "Save Us" could be a STAIND ballad. "Erase the Doubt" sports some admittedly cool voice-box effects, but it otherwise a dippy riff-rock travesty with annoying techno tendencies. Even the better songs, like the crunchy ballad "Just Pretending", can best be described as amiably generic — nothing that'd cause you to sprain a wrist changing the radio dial in your car, but nothing you'd actually, like, go out and buy.
MUSHROOMHEAD really needed to knock this one out of the park, after such a long wait for new material and so many changes in their camp. They didn't, and that certainly won't help them in their attempt to be self-sufficient indie-label scrappers. After all this time and all that potential, it's sad that the only question raised by "Savior Sorrow" is "who cares?"