Despite still containing large chunks of influence from Alternative and Industrial music; Beautiful Stories’ is arguably their most straight forwardly Metal release to date; with a lot more double-kicks, chugging and up-tempo tracks than on their previous albums. At times, there is even a very clear Zack Wylde/Dimebag Darrell feel present in the tails to the riffs and there is a hell of a lot more lead guitar than on any previous Mushroomhead release.
Furthermore, there are also a lot less of the dark and creepy moments from the band’s early work to be found here. There is nothing like ‘Chancre Sore’ or ‘The Wrist’ on the album for example, which may in fairness be a bit disappointing for certain fans, but the album definitely does make up for ignoring one aspect of the band’s sound with its consistency and the excellent, memorable songwriting.
Right from the beginning, the album is charged and exciting, kicking off with the very fun opening track ‘Come On’ which pretty much sums up the entire new focus in direction in one track.
The next four tracks are all excellent, very much following in that same direction, but with enough variety each for the album not to sound homogenous, then from that point on the album lets a lot of variety sink in. There are still touches of Faith No More’s influence present in the vocal patterns and choice of keyboard sounds, but you’ll also get a really Tony Iommi sounding riff here, a bit that could fit on a Chimaira record here or even a vaguely Ministry-esque drumbeat there too.
When this is focused yet varied musical direction is combined with the hugely improved production job and mix (courtesy of their drummer Steve ‘Skinny’ Felton) over the last record, and the fact of Waylon’s voice being an established part of the band already this time around, this is a very impressive and instantly enjoyable record, arguably even their best to date. If you have anything more than a casual interest in the band, this is definitely not an album to skip.
Highlights include the faster, heavier tracks like ‘Come On,’ ‘Darker Days’ and ‘Burn The Bridge,’ as well as the interesting percussion-based ‘Harvest The Garden’ and the proggy ‘Holes In The Void’ which sounds like an even more intense reworking of their cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Empty Spaces.’
That being said however, there is not a single track here that is forgettable, weak or out of place; it is a remarkably consistent album and the kind where you can have a new favourite track on every listen.
The songs are all big, the riffs are all satisfying and there are lead guitar breaks going off left, right and center. The combination of this direction and the existing styles of vocals, keyboards and electronics from the ‘Xii’ album in particular, results in a brilliant and utterly enjoyable record.
Overall; for a fan of the band, this album is an absolute must-have. It may take a few listens to come around to if you primarily like the band through the filter of a more Industrial or Alternative fanship but will likely become your favourite Mushroomhead album if you listen to it through the filter of a more Metal fanship.