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Monday, December 15, 2008

CD Review: Mudvayne - The New Game

Mudvayne - The New Game
2008 Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Mudvayne possesses one of the most talented rhythm sections in modern rock. Thing is, ever since ditching their outlandish stage theatrics and scaling back the slap-happy funk metal from the days of L.D. 50 and at least parts of End of All Things to Come, Mudvayne has lately been treading as close to AOR rock as they can politely inch.

Of course, Chad Gray is still one of the most twisted lyric writers on the scene as well as possessing the capacity to expel some of the best delivery in the business. Since cleaning up his deep throat swills to alleviate an esophagus ready to tear itself asunder with the same dramatic effect as the punishment Gray manifests inside his prose-bombed head, it's not wholly out of line to say his vocal charisma has been checked by a routinely-plodding tempo scheme in Mudvayne's recent music.

Since expanding their audience with 2005's accessible Lost and Found, the Mudvayne clan take very few steps away from that album's script, on occasion stepping on the gas and flooding their latest album The New Game's darkened muse with a mixed bag of power prog, crunch core and ankle-chained slavery to a mainstream rock tandem that seldom varies.

Honestly, this band is far too gifted to be masquerading in format rock for too much longer. When set free of the midtempo shambling that has dominated Mudvayne's music lately (and especially all over this album), these guys can rip amplifiers apart with gleeful savagery. Even though Chad Gray took a side foray with Hellyeah, you have to admit Mudvayne these days sound like a snazzily-oiled rock machine that's nevertheless a bit too extreme (due to their low end chunk chugs and sonnets of borderline nihilism) for on-the-take playlist programmers.

The New Game is indeed a well-played album and Mudvayne is the tightest band they've ever been here. To create a bit of intrigue for The New Game, Mudvayne weaves a concept about a character who has killed his best friend and is going through the motions of guilt and cover-up. A little nod to The Shining manifests on "Dull Boy," while the narrative on the CD inlet is particularly chewy and gets you into the mood for this thing, as does the palatable opening licks of "Fish Out of Water."

Problem is, Mudvayne's indefectible security is threatened by a subliminal distress in which the band sounds like they could just break loose like the old days and that's a little sad, because they need to allow themselves to go on the gut instead of on the dime. These guys aren't Pazazu's version of Nickelback or Trapt, however songs such as "Have It Your Way," "Do What You Do" and "Dull Boy" would lead you to believe otherwise. Is it coincidence a song called "Same 'Ol" checks in on this album, depsite its appreciably meaty outpouring and kickass guitar solo?

Yes, The New Game's concept is chilling and quite nervy. Greg Tribbett's willingness to peel off more traditional guitar solos gives the album some articulated fang. Ryan Martinie remains one of the genre's forgotten heroes on bass (who wouldn't want to see him in a duel against Les Claypool?). Chad Gray is still dwelling on the frayed edge between loose cannon and canonized archangel.

"A New Game" gives us a hearty reminder of how emotionally maniacal Mudvayne used to be. A dangerous (dangerous for their chosen mode of operation these days) merge between thrash and chomping agro bits with an undermined soulful finale makes "A New Game" the finest cut of the album, largely because Mudvayne sees fit not only to shake up the album's safe status quo for five minutes, it boasts loud and clear that the reckless and exuberant Mudvayne is still clawing around somewhere. You get to hear it a second and third time on the pumping punk funk of "The Hate In Me" and "We the People," where Martinie and Tribbett are simply lethal.

Granted, The New Game is enjoyable enough for its sense of professionalism, but there's going to be a dead-end spot anytime now for these recycled riffs and overused melody patterns. Mudvayne probably believed the sacrifice for deeper melody and less insanity to make for snug compatability, considering Chad Gray plays his dual vocal personae into it effortlessly. Still, you have to think Matt McDonough is soon going to soon want to double kick madcap for three or four minutes straight ala "Dig" and for sure, those who have been following Mudvayne all of this time are going to be wanting the same exact thing in exchange for their continued loyalty.

Professionalism is one thing. Sharp execution is another. Deliberately holding yourself back from your true potential is sadly suspect...

Rating: ***

18 comments:

Martin said...

Damn. That is one depressing review. Mudvayne's always had such aggression from the bass and drums, comparing them to AOR makes me scared to listen to "The New Game".

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

The three songs I glowed about are powerful Mudvayne. The rest of it is just clean, slick and safe. For the concept behind this album, I feel it doesn't live up to the danger element suggested lyrically. I dig Mudvayne a lot and I will continue to listen to this album despite a lukewarm review. What they're doing is good, but we're talking average band good. These guys have far much more within themselves to keep playing this particular game, pun intended...

Martin said...

Ahkay. S'pose though Mudvayne shouldn't be average considering the sheer musical talent of the group. Hopefully the next album/EP/DVD/money-maker is better.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

That's my point exactly, bro. They're above-average, superior at times when they really let the chains loose. So much talent in this band should be allowed to fly. Hopefully they get this particular stuff out of their system soon. I hate criticizing a band (I hate criticizing any band, for that matter, but you have to be honest) I know are just about world class musicians like Mudvayne are...thx for reading, Martin

Anonymous said...

Been reading for about a year now, just finally commented. A disappointing Mudvayne equals a disappointed Martin...bro.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Are you a Martin I know in the biz, by chance? Just curious. Grateful to have you on board as regular, amigo!

Martin said...

Highly doubt it. Different continents for one.

mudvaynegirl0624 said...

wow. that was a GREAT review. and everything is true. fuckin like ray said three songs i liked that was it. they are holding themselves back and its sad i was waiting so long for this cd and when it came out i was sadly disappointed. but i did see them in concert at the house of blues and let me tell you... THE BEST CONCERT i have EVERRR seen!! and i've been to a lot! they played dwyd off the new album and everything else from ld 50 or the end of all things to come. it was amazing!!!

mudvaynegirl0624 said...

wow. that was a GREAT review. and everything is true. fuckin like ray said three songs i liked that was it. they are holding themselves back and its sad i was waiting so long for this cd and when it came out i was sadly disappointed. but i did see them in concert at the house of blues and let me tell you... THE BEST CONCERT i have EVERRR seen!! and i've been to a lot! they played dwyd off the new album and everything else from ld 50 or the end of all things to come. it was amazing!!!

mudvaynegirl0624 said...

wow. that was a GREAT review. and everything is true. fuckin like ray said three songs i liked that was it. they are holding themselves back and its sad i was waiting so long for this cd and when it came out i was sadly disappointed. but i did see them in concert at the house of blues and let me tell you... THE BEST CONCERT i have EVERRR seen!! and i've been to a lot! they played dwyd off the new album and everything else from ld 50 or the end of all things to come. it was amazing!!!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

thanks for the vote of confidence, Girl, and I saw Mudvayne open for Korn a few years back and they blew the arena apart...that's why I never give on them, anyway :)

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I meant give UP on them...sorry, my wrist is killing me this evening

Anonymous said...

That is such crap! this is what is wrong with music today! Crappy people saying absolute bs. Mudvayne is awesome and should stay as they are a metal band. All this review proved was this is a useless source of a review. The new game is a great album period. This is the one and only time i will visit this crap site. Stay as you are loosers i am goin to mudvayne tonight and will vent my anger in a pit where it belongs. Have fun watching will & grace!

Martin said...

Uh...it is a good album. Just saying, LD was better.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Anon, thank you, that was very amusing and deeply insightful. Sorry we don't see eye-to-eye, though if I hated this album, the rating would've gone much lower. Also sorry you feel TMM is "crap," but I lose enough sleep with my work and caring for a baby, so I'll worry about what's important. I salute your passion to support Mudvayne, who as I said in the review boast one of the finest rhythm sections in metal AND rock, so gimme all of your daggers, kid, I'm a big boy.

I wouldn't be caught dead watching Will and Grace since t.v. sucks except for Dirty Sexy Money, Dexter and Pushing Daisies. I wish Mudvayne nothing but the best as I've interviewed Matt McDonough in the past and he was quite the gentleman. Hope you enjoy your show since I know from experience that Mudvayne is bombastic live.

Cheers...

Wolf_serbia said...

i really like your criticism about this album. however i think you should rate from 0 to 10, because i think that the new game deserves 7/10 or 3,5 stars.
this album really is lighter, and i REALLY liked it, however when compared to other albums, i think it is the weakest one. I really like this thing, it has that mystical wibe like TEOATTC, however i think that they needed more time to make it a bit more...emm...unique. You know, by listening to Fish out of water and then Do What You Do, you feel like the song doesnt belong in this album.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I appreciate your time and feedback, Wolf. Let's just say a former venue I used write for used the 1-10 scale and it wasn't a bad thing, but it caused a little distaste in my mouth when my ratings got overruled by the editor. Plus I was very rude in a review to a band once (this was many years ago) at that and I wish I could take some it back. Not a good album from my recollection, but not deserving of such brutality.

Anyway, getting off-topic, Mudvayne gets the best of me and anyone who didn't glow on it since this album sold quite well. Hats off to them. I miss the old Mudvayne, but as strategists, they proved a point

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