Sometimes progression calls for a little regression. A step backwards every so often so as to take stock of where you are with greater clarity.
Such a move sums up Mudvayne's approach to their latest album. It was probably needed, since 2008's The New Game was hailed by most as being an "abysmal mess", and that was one of the kinder comments to be found. Mudvayne's impetus this time around was to step outside of their own heads a little, to stem the tide of over-thinking and to re-embrace the raw tribalism which embodies most great metal releases.
It's not without its own brand of forward-thinking novelty though, the artwork, drawn by Paul Booth is (in the Deluxe edition at least) initially a plain white page. Subject it to a black-light though, and the full image projects itself. Perhaps it's a little akin to the glow-in-the-dark and heat-sensitive phases which plagued the 90s, but it's the innovation which counts and bodes well for the music which has the job of backing up that statement.
A vein of chaotic brutality reigns supreme throughout the band's fifth album. A little familiar in construction perhaps to any who have heard any metal album before: the double-kick runs, the stop-and-start breakdowns, the sneering vocal delivery. To the untrained ear, allusions to "One"-era Metallica wouldn't be too wide of the mark.
Songs like "Beyond the Pale", "All Talk", "Scream With Me", "Beautiful and Strange" and "Burn the Bridge" could likely save mainstream metal from the torturous grip of Bullet For My Valentine and A7X, being devoid of the obvious 'emo' trimmings and devoid of a '-core' suffix it checks the boxes of raw intensity without selling itself out to appeal to the younger generations through obvious imagery or easy allusions to Hot Topic romance. Quite a feat for a band who came to the fore through the nu-metal years, of which only Linkin Park and Slipknot remain (relevant).
The acoustic ballad is perhaps too easy an ending to the album, yet has become a staple since the advent of Stone Sour, Stain'd and Nickelback - not that we're comparing this album to any of those atrocities. It does resist the urge to explode into life, instead fading into a backdrop of industrial noise which populates the last minute of the album. We suppose it could be held as an example of diversity, but considering we've seen such moves a million times, it's diversity-by-the-numbers. You want to surprise us: finish with a dance-metal number or just opt for the epical finalé.
Just a little short of a 'return to glory' the self-titled album does its job of restoring honour to the Mudvayne name. It is unlikely to expand the band's demographic, but it will likely rope back the many fans who joined the post-game exodus. After all, all you need to retain relevance is to retain your fans, and Mudvayne look set to do just that.