When Mushroomhead signed with Universal in 2001, fans' reactions ranged from elation to knee-jerk pessimism. Some followers were thrilled that Cleveland's best-kept alternative metal secret had hooked up with a major label and hoped that the headbangers would finally receive the sort of national success they deserved; pessimists feared that a corporate powerhouse like Universal would neuter Mushroomhead and try to take away their risk-taking spirit. On a creative level, XIII is the first album that really tests Mushroomhead's relationship with Universal; it's the first album they actually recorded for Universal, whereas their previous album, XX, was originally an indie release before Universal remastered and re-released it. As it turns out, the pessimists had nothing to worry about; XIII is no less adventurous than Mushroomhead's pre-Universal output. XIII sounds quite focused but never comes across as contrived, and longtime followers will be happy to know that this 2003 release is state-of-the-art Mushroomhead -- forceful, loud, and in your face, but melodic and intricate as well. Bombast is still an important part of the picture, although not at the expense of musicality. And true to form, Mushroomhead continues to find inspiration in a variety of music. Metal remains the foundation -- they're an alt-metal band first and foremost -- but punk, rap, industrial, techno, and goth are still effective, tastefully applied ingredients. XIII has inspired a variety of interesting comparisons; reviewers have mentioned everyone from Marilyn Manson to Evanescence to Slipknot and Sevendust when describing XIII. But truth be told, Mushroomhead had a distinctive, recognizable sound (and a devoted cult following in Cleveland) long before Evanescence, Slipknot, or Sevendust broke through commercially -- and it would be a huge mistake to think that Mushroomhead is actually trying to emulate any other artists. XIII is the work of metalheads who have never been afraid to be original -- a band that, creatively, doesn't lose a thing on this Universal disc.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson