Everything that went down in the early 2000s between MUSHROOMHEAD and SLIPKNOT seems downright silly in retrospect. The notorious feud between these two acts was largely generated by Ohio metal fans, but the far-reaching spatter of "my masked metal band is better than YOURS" slung by said knuckleheads prompted unneeded drama that became more a war of image versus music. After all, any metal fan with half a brain can tell you the glaring differences between MUSHROOMHEAD and SLIPKNOT sound-wise. Since that pointless period of bitchery, both bands have suffered mortal losses and fences that never should've been chewed up have been mended. In a gesture of solidarity, members of MUSHROOMHEAD joined SLIPKNOT turntablist Sid Wilson at one of his DJ sets. In turn, former SLIPKNOT vocalist Andres Colsefini has rubbed elbows with MUSHROOMHEAD and thus the circle of enmity closes and fades. So let's move on.
The more adventurous, genre-bending MUSHROOMHEAD have dealt with a dizzying turnstile of members come-and-gone, and in the case of vocalist Jason "J Mann" Popson, come again. With the death of guitarist John "J.J. Righteous" Sekula following MUSHROOMHEAD's previous album, "Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children", the band has taken the past four years to lick their wounds and plug the holes left by the departures of bassist Jack "Pig Benis" Kilcoyne, guitarist Dave "Gravy" Felton and percussionist Daniel "Lil' Dan" Fox. They're filled by Ryan "Dr. F" Farrell, Tommy Church and Robbie "Roberto Diablo" Godsey, respectively, who get their first crack at a MUSHROOMHEAD album here.
"XIII" still representing MUSHROOMHEAD's finest moment on-record, the revamping of the band is one obstacle the band faces with "The Righteous and the Butterfly". This album, dedicated to the late Sekula and Vanessa Solowlow (departed wife of Steve "Skinny" Felton), revisits the moody explorations of "XIII", if not reclaiming that album's muscle in whole. The good news for "The Righteous and the Butterfly" is that assumes its own identity and most of it is pretty compelling. Just having J Mann back brings tremendous invigoration to the band.
The album certainly opens with a loud statement. Skinny clobbers the hell out of his double kicks on "Our Apologies", "How Many Times" and later on "Son of 7" to the point picture frames are susceptible to being rattled from the walls, depending on how loud you crank the album up. Jeffrey "Nothing" Hatrix, Waylon Reavis and J Mann get right to work in elevating the opening two numbers along with the band, which captures the banging swells (if not the full density) of "XIII".
"Qwerty" is a profanity-laden, metal-mucked hike of a Danny Elfman score. The dirtier and heavier the song gets beyond its carnival of the screwed sways, the nastier the riffs get, the quicker the double hammers are laid out and the vocals chaw about having a bad day. With the grind of life often being metaphorically compared to a circus, MUSHROOMHEAD nails that nuance to the sheets with their carny-pocked tirade on "Qwerty".
"Paradise of the Poor" is set up like a kissing cousin to "One More Day" from "XIII", but true to the band's probing spirit, the melancholic piano and moody singing provides a swan song overture to lost comrades and extended family with the cryptic final thesis being, "someone'd better show me how to live". The frail piano textures carry into the pop balladry behind "Childlike" as the guitars begin to assume control over the keys and give extra magnitude to the guttural vocals. "Childlike" stops abruptly to allow MUSHROOMHEAD to jack things back up to a fever pitch on "This Cold Reign".
"We Are the Truth" is hard to describe with its shuck 'n jive base, rapped verses and backing female vocals that nearly pulls the song into electro-pop diva turf. Add chunky riffs and a few subliminal AEROSMITH drags and "We Are the Truth" is a curious but effective number that requires a few spins to soak everything up. "For Your Pleasure" hints at replicating a few bars from "Sun Doesn't Rise", but there's a hung-back sensuousness to the song, no matter how loud it gets on the bridges and choruses. Again, the vibe from "XIII" is recaptured here, if not its full projection.
Really, the only drag to "The Righteous and the Butterfly" is MUSHROOMHEAD's nutty and needless cover of Adele's "Rumor Has It". Never ones to stray from saluting mainstream powerhouses with their own interpretive metal mashes, this one is delivered with too much obviousness, unlike their meaty haul of Seal's "Crazy" years ago. There's so much dedication in the thirteen songs preceding "Rumor Has It", the cover almost derails the whole project with its abject inanity. One might say the title "The Righteous and the Butterfly" itself is inane, but at least MUSHROOMHEAD brings the goods to back their eccentricity. The methodic build to catharsis on "Graveyard du Jour" and the explosive BLACK SABBATH rails on "Out of My Mind" are two spots on the album these guys have to be especially proud of.
This time, MUSHROOMHEAD's stage vestiges are more demonic, but it's always been more about the music than the masquerade to this band. Any metal fan with a half a brain knows that.