After 6 years, Mushroomhead is back on wax with their eighth album A Wonderful Life. Despite their last record The Righteous & The Butterfly’s success, three of their members headed for the exits in the years that followed, with vocalist Waylon Reavis’s reasons for doing so being the most damning of all. Nevertheless, the band regrouped, signed to Napalm in 2019 and set about recording their studio return which is now upon us. Through much difficulty and struggle as a band, Mushroomhead have if nothing else set a great example for perseverance that has carried them for 27 years up to this point of re-establishment they find themselves in now.
“A Requiem For Tomorrow” opens the album up, starting with a choral intro and breaking into a par-for-the-course industrial getdown. “Madness Within” flows in a more experimental, menacing vein; “Seen It All” is a fantastic aggressive rip while “The Heresy” is a wonderfully somber (but nevertheless heavy) tune showcasing Ms. Jackie’s vocals alongside frontman J. Mann. “What A Shame” takes on a cartoonish sinister vibe with “Pulse” providing a more generic contrast; “Carry On” is a massive collection of nu-metal cliches while “The Time Has Come” is largely unlistenable. “11th Hour”, with its dark piano-driven verses and guitar-soaked choruses gives a bit more direction but not creating a significant improvement in quality from before.
“I Am The One” packs much of the swift-fisted punch of “Seen It All” while “The Flood” monotonously plods along into the floating “Where The End Begins”. The church choir from the album’s beginning reappears as a reprieve from the band for “Confutatis”, a number one can imagine being a great live interlude between songs. The instrumental break continues with “To The Front”, shifting from a God-channeling choral arrangement into a slow-boiling piano crawl that evolves into a massive mechanical mash-up. “Sound Of Destruction”, while not without its strong, hard-rocking moments is generally all over the place; “Another Ghost” is comparatively strong though set against much of Wonderful’s track list. It turns out to be a fine strategic move- the only thing remaining after Mushroomhead’s strongest moment on the album is one more dose of the choir; closing the curtain with the two-minute “Lacrimosa.”
For Mushroomhead, A Wonderful Life is a comeback that could have been attended to far more closely. Solid moments exist here and there on the record without a doubt, but much of it is scattered to a point that it starts to stray from whatever objective it was trying to attain. They are an experimental band, indeed, and that can allow an argument for the album being more meritorious for some than it is to others. At the end of the day, Wonderful is an underwhelming return to the metal spotlight and leaves two options for the future: Overhaul, rework, and rethink, or give up and go home.