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...
Monday, December 15, 2008
Mudvayne - The New Game