The year was 2004. I was on my gap year in England and not particularly enjoying it very much, to say the least. Working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, in a cold store packing house. And on top of that it was winter. England in winter sure is an experience. Depressing. Claustrophobic. Cold. Luckily, the towns I lived in – first Gravesend (where Pocahontas died), and then Chatham – were blessed with a Virgin Records store that had a very healthy metal section. Coupled with my many trips into London’s Piccadilly Circus and the amazing HMV located there, I managed to amass a great collection of physical CDs. Insert the “hello fellow kids” meme here… Managing to grow my music collection with my own money helped.
I hadn’t heard much Mushroomhead before I picked up their album XIII (Pronounced Thirteen). I just knew the three, or so, songs I had heard before were interesting to me. More electronic, than nu metal. And the lyrics more in-depth than just the hate-everything-anger-anger-fight-eff-word that was sweeping through the metal, and particularly the nu metal, scene at the time.
So I picked up XIII and sat down to listen to it.
I returned to South Africa, and got on with my studies and all that entails. I remember one summers afternoon, sitting down with my mate Steve, and going through our music collections, spotting similarities and recommending different bands when I found myself trying to convey how much this album meant to me. In his mind, Slipknot and Mushroomhead were the same, they just looked different. I remember a thought occurring to me that has stuck with me ever since.
Mushroomhead and Slipknot both have similar themes and sing about the apocalypse, so I could see how he had the same opinion of both. I explained it like Slipknot revel in the chaos, they enjoy the lawlessness, where as Mushroomhead are mourning for the loss of order. Same themes. Different outlooks.
I could probably write an essay on this album alone. Every song speaks to me on a different level, probably due to my situation at the time, and some personal beliefs I still hold. But I’ll save you that.
Kill Tomorrow opens the album, and its heavy and methodical. It blew my mind the first time I heard it. It was the heaviest Mushroomhead song I had heard and I loved the way the dual vocalists played off of each other.
While we pay the price we payMushroomhead – Kill Tomorrow
Kill tomorrow yesterday
Sun Doesn’t Rise was the single of the album and is another amazing song. The lyrics are exceptional. It was on the Freddy VS Jason soundtrack which shows just how old this is.
I fold and falter, empty alter, all I gaveMushroomhead – Sun Doesn’t Rise
I pray it makes me whole
I think the brink’s around the corner
There’s an error in my soul
The next song that really reverberates with me is Nowhere To Go.
Hollow hides from life’s embrace
Echoes siren my displace
My patience lies beside my faith
Denial behind this painted face
All aloneMushroomhead – Nowhere To Go
More than you’ll know
One by one ’till we are all alone
I am not going to go song by song, I have just given you a taste, a teaser for this exceptional album, from an exceptional band. After this album, certain members would leave, and the sound of Mushroomhead would be forever changed. In the life cycle of a band, it shows growth and change. I stepped away from following them super closely after their next album – Savior Sorrow – as their sound and direction went way more experimental for my tastes. Although, their latest album has gone more heavy which has piqued my interest again. I may just have to give it a good proper listen at some point.
Mushroomhead’s XIII came along at the right time. I was alone in a strange country for the first time in my life and trying to figure out who I was. This album came along and assured me that I didn’t need to have it all figured it out, that other people were still wondering about life, the universe and everything, and that it was OK to question things like faith and direction. And for that, this album will always have a special place in my heart and on my shelf.
Sadly, one night, my car was broken into and the radio was taken. In the CD drive was this album. So on my shelf, I have an empty case, holding no album. I find this fitting. The overarching theme, after all, is the emptiness that is left after you have questioned every facet of yourself – from your faith to your physical.
When you do listen to this album, don’t skip the last song. Titled Thirteen, it may sound like an instrumental. Which then gives way to a baby laughing over the soundtrack, and its just weird. Not creepy. Just. Odd. Very odd. Rather, skip 5 minutes in and enjoy the secret track – Mushroomheads cover of Seal’s Crazy.
But we’re never gonna survive, unlessCrazy
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless
We are a little crazy
In a sky full of people, only some want to flyMushroomhead – Crazy
Isn’t that crazy? Crazy?
In a heaven of people there’s only some want to fly
Isn’t that crazy? Crazy!
In a world full of people, only some want to fly
Isn’t that crazy? Crazy!