I’m sure anyone reading this does not need an introduction to Mushroomhead as the group has had an extensive history, numerous lineup changes, the Slipknot “feud,” and origins in the industrial/alternative/nu metal world so it is probably safe to say if you are reading this, you know at least one track by Mushroomhead. Released last year through Napalm Records, A Wonderful Life is the eighth studio album from the group and is their first album to feature new members Steve Rauckhorst, Jackie LaPonza, and Tom Shaffner. It is also the first Mushroomhead album without vocalist Jeffrey Hatrix and keyboardist Tom Schmitz. This either turned away many long time fans or introduced new open minded fans but personally as a long time fan since the Superbuick era, this is by far the best album released by the band.
The excitement for this album was high as it had been six years since the last album and there has been a rather significant lineup change. This album marks the first without founding vocalist Jeffrey ‘Nothing’ Hatrix and keyboardist Tom ‘Schmotz’ Schmitz as well as vocalist Waylon Reavis who had been active in the past three albums and guitarist Tommy Church from the last release. In place of the absent, we see vocalists Steve Rauckhorst and Jackie LaPonza with guitarist Tommy “Tankx” Shaffner take the reins and add to the lineup’s dynamic.
The album definitely shows a completely different sound than previous releases as most notable is the addition of Jackie LaPonza on vocals. The band has taken on a more diverse sound as heard with their first single ‘Seen It All’ as it may be quite repetitive, it’s memorable and catchy and rides the thin lines between nu metal, gothic metal, metalcore and some bit of alt metal and rock. The second single from the album, ‘The Heresy,’ also is very catchy and memorable but is more radio friendly and on the alternative rock/metal borders as LaPonza truly shines here as the lead focus. These two singles worked well as they may not be the most unique or complex songs ever written but they do their job as being enjoyable, memorable and making you want to keep listening. Now with that being said, that does not always work out sticking to that radio friendly, safe approach as the track ‘Carry On’ was a miss on this otherwise fully enjoyable release.
There were also some majorly unique and gripping tracks such as ‘What A Shame’ and ‘Where The End Begins’ which show the band’s evolution with this new lineup as they contained such diverse sounds and compositions unheard from the band before. All and all, A Wonderful Life to me is a successful transition from the old Mushroomhead into a new era. Yes I know some fans will disagree as many have with other bands in the past losing major key players to their original sound but honestly, I believe this is the best Mushroomhead has sounded in years and I think it can only get better from here. If you like your alternative metal with a splash of ambition and a sprinkle of diversity, then have a listen. There is definitely something for everyone here.
Overall Score: 9.0/10
Review by Neil Andersen