When the local metal act Mushroomhead first formed in 1993, few critics imagined the group would still be going at it in 2014. And yet the masked band is now more popular than ever. It's just returned from Australia, where it played as part of the massive Soundwave festival. Percussionist Skinny called us last month as he was packing his bags for the band's first-ever show in Moscow, said the band is riding a new artistic high. Its new album — its seventh studio effort — embraces a wide range of musical styles, including hip-hop, electronica and hard rock. Recorded at the band's studio in North Royalton and mixed by long-time collaborator Bill Korecky, the disc is arguably the band's most polished effort to date. "We're happy with the way it came out," says Skinny. "It made morale good again for the band. A lot of bands can make album after album but it's tough to make it exciting again. Somehow, this album just did that. We got to 20 years and we just wanted to have some fun." The band plays the Rock Factory in Akron on Friday, May 9, and the Cove in Geneva-on-the-Lake on Sunday, May 11, before performing a special concert on Tuesday, May 13, at the Agora Theatre to celebrate the CD's release. Here's Skinny's take on the album's songs.
This is a really heavy, hard-hitting song. It has a really good chorus to it. It's the first song on the album because it has so much energy to it. It's really in-your-face. It was one of the last songs written and then the first song on the album. That's the chorus you hear whispered at the beginning. It's basically saying, "Do we really have to say sorry again after 20 years?" It's amazing how much fans feel like they're in your band. I feel the same way. I get attached to a band and then they change the singer and I say, "I'm never going to listen to them again." Then you buy the album and you find out the singer kicks ass. Bands change; that's part of it.
"How Many Times"
It starts out slow and melodic and it has a real cool bass tone to it. The whole intro and outro was an idea for another song and it got put together as a last minute thing. There's a few different styles in that tune. It almost has a Tool/Deftones vibe to it and also Rammstein vibe to it. We're experimenting with different sounds. [Guitarist] Church has a lot to do with it and it has a lot of guitar textures.
"Devils be Damned"
That one is really cool. It's in your face. The chorus on that one is definitely reaching out as far as talking to the fans. It's about how we've done everything we could and it's still not good enough so fuck it. That's the attitude. It came out really fucking cool. It has a good wide open chorus and is kind of sing-song-y. We found that to be a theme — we would get heavy and then change it up so you could sing along and you could understand the chorus. It's not just screaming all the time.
That was fun. We wanted something fun and something that had the old school vibe to it. It was one of the first things that [bassist] Dr. F and Church brought to the table. We wanted to bring back that element that the early Shroom albums had a lot of. The first album was really experimental, and this album reminds me of that. We were throwing the sink at everything and going, "That really works" or "That really doesn't work."
"Portraits of the Poor"
It reminds me of early Shroom. [Singer] J Mann sounds great. That one wrote itself. It's traditional Shroom style stuff. I'm 43 years old and some old influences will stand out from time to time [so that might be why you hear some echoes of David Bowie]. Nowadays, you don't get older influences standing out.
That was an experimental piece with [local rapper] Jus Mic. We were working on it and the lyrics were from a prior song. I asked Mic to sing it and we fell in love with it. It was just about being in the right place at the right time. We wanted to have the vocal style match the somberness of the piece. It's a dark song but it's beautiful at the same time.
"This Cold Reign"
Church and I had been doing some drinking, and we listened to a lot of heavy stuff. We listened to a lot of Stone Sour and Sepultura. We're old speed metal dudes anyway. This one is very in your-face and fun to rip. It's a shredding piece for sure.
"We Are the Truth"
Jackie LaPonza from Unsaid Fate sings. We have another version of it that we do live that's much faster. For the studio we wanted something dark and creepy. We compare it to Adam Ant or even Marilyn Manson. It's a cool piece. We were going for some art there. The Best Buy version of the album has three other mixes of that song. It has the fast version and an electronic music remix. We did it in Australia and Jackie came with us so we debuted that song on the SoundWave festival. It went over really well. People moved to it. They were diving in the pit and stuff. It was a cool piece to test. The live version is way more upbeat.
"Son of 7"
We just added it into our setlist for Russia. It highlights [singer] Waylon and Church. The riff in that tune and the pacing of it is great. It starts blistering with double bass but once it get into a groove, it's great. It's a simple piece but effective. Waylan is great on it and he had a lot to say about it and he knew what he wanted with the vocals and he nailed it. We kept working on it and working on it and he finally nailed it.
"For Your Pleasure"
This one has the old school vibe. It reminds me of the early days but it's a little more mature. When it gets heavy, it's really good.
This one is really dark. It's kind of doomy and has some cool electronics to it. We were going through the motions and playing some different stuff. What we didn't have was something really dark and doomy. It's pretty mean and dark. We wanted to still have some energy to it. That's not easy to do when you have a mid-tempo thing, but we were trying to get evil on that one. I think we got pretty close.
"Graveyard du Jour"
That was an early piece as far as when it was written. We ended up with 22 songs when we did the album. That was an early piece and it's [singer] Jeff-heavy. Jeff and Waylan harmonize together. It very much reminded me of the first two albums. You have the kids talking and laughing and the big, heavy hits with the piano. It's traditional Shroom.
"Out of My Mind"
The label was talking about using it as a secondary single. It's not so much screaming. It's not heavy vocals that you can't understand. It's upbeat and catchy. And there's not a lot of swearing. The label got on me about that. There's a lot of swearing on the album. I think this will be a good one to play live. It's very upbeat and got a good fucking hook to it. It was fun to write and fun to play. Now that we're ready to go out and tour it, it's pretty cool.
"Rumor Has It"
That's an Adele cover. Dr. F and I we were working on some masks one day and that tune came up. We thought, if you put some heavy guitars behind it, it could be like Metallica. It made us chuckle. We did quite a few other cover songs for the album but didn't include them. We were trying to make this song our own. We did it to laugh and have a good time. Plus, Adele is awesome. Anything she does is great. Hopefully, she gets the chance to hear it and likes it.
Mushroomhead CD Release with Erasing Never, Lydia Can't Breathe, Unsaid Fate, Hysteria, Matt-o-Matic, Seven Face Sin and Kevlar
6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 13, Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Ticket$20 ADV, $24 DOS, clevelandagora.com.