Savior Sorrow

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Despite the issue of Mushroomhead's 2005 DVD, the band has not released a new studio album in three years. This is significant because as the band reaches the age of lucky 13 (they first began playing together in 1993) it emerges as something wholly different. Forget about Korn and some of the alt metal acts, Mushroomhead build their tunes from grooves and themes. They use rhythm as a composition. Yeah, they still wear masks, they still create a mystique which would be worthless if the music itself weren't so damn compelling. There are the different clashing rhythmic grooves in "12 Hundred," where hip-hop, breaks, and hard, glorious '80s metal riffs all collide. On "Simple Survival," they play a near ballad that touches on the very best dramatic moments of NIN and alternate vocals between sung drones and harsh, growled out phrases. True: if Bauhaus had come to birth in 2006 instead of the late '70s, they may have sounded like Mushroomhead do on this track. Beauty, chaos, tension, and fierce guitar and keyboard interplay create a taut instrumental attack that is both multitextured and dynamic. "Tattoo" is a little more predictable, but it rocks nonetheless; the slippery metal plodding of "Erase the Doubt" is almost like a soul tune but is utterly Mushroomhead. The anthemic balladry and power chords on "The Need" showcase the differing faces of this complex and compelling Cleveland band. "Cut Me" is simply creepy, messed up, and full of moments where near-gothic beauty are interchanged with frenzied, distorted guitar riffs and literally thundering drums. The set ends with "Embrace the Ending," a straight-up eerie, meandering ballad about the end of time. Vocals, strings, whispers, and guitars -- both acoustic and electric -- entwine classical themes with the spirit of rock's past in a quiet, unsettling song that is as well-crafted and beautiful as it is deranged. Savior Sorrow is a welcome return. Recommended.

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