With former Pig Pen proprietor Robbie Bahr doing the booking, fans of hard music have a new venue for high-profile live metal shows, a lot closer than Clinton. And the upcoming week demonstrates that Bahr is adept at bringing in second-tier - in terms of popularity - and up-and-coming acts. The club will feature the old-school fantasy metal of Symphony X on December 5 and the Insane Clown Posse-influenced Twiztid on December 10.
But the band that should get headbangers excited is Mushroomhead, which will be headlining a show on Wednesday, December 3, with Avenged Sevenfold.
The eight-member Cleveland-based Mushroomhead is a potent blend of the masked theatrics of bands such as Slipknot, nü-metal atonal guitars and guttural-growl vocals, industrial samples, and - best of all - a keyboard-heavy sound and acrobatic singing reminiscent of Faith No More. And when I say "reminiscent," I mean that you might be surprised to find out that it's not Mike Patton singing on the band's new disc, XIII, which incidentally is not the band's 13th release. (To confuse the issue, Mushroomhead's last album was XX, and the band was also featured on the XXX soundtrack.)
You can do worse things to differentiate yourself from the childhood-trauma masses than have a singer who can ape Patton with precision, and J Mann certainly accomplishes that. The single "The Sun Doesn't Rise" might have been a track off the dearly departed FNM's The Real Thing, and "Nowhere to Go" would be at home on nearly any Faith No More release.
My descriptions of the band might make Mushroomhead sound more derivative than it really is. To imitate Patton is to add another instrument to the band, because a rubber voice can do so many things, and it has a range and a power to surprise that are unparalleled.
Furthermore, what Faith No More did in its lifetime - the band broke up in 1998 - represented an evolution, and Mushroomhead seems to be continuing its work. When Patton joined Faith No More in 1988 for The Real Thing, the music was funky and loose, and the versatile singer was all over the place, crooning nasally and rapping. But Patton led the band into increasingly dark and aggressive territory with outings such as Angel Dust and the phenomenally abrasive King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime.
Mushroomhead, at least on XIII, represents a synthesis of Faith No More's Patton years, the vocal openness of the early material with the bile of the later years, melded with nü-metal motifs.
Mushroomhead, simply put, is the second coming of FNM. The band, which formed in 1993, even has the same playfulness, throwing in a thrashy cover of Seal's "Crazy" into the album-closing nine-minute-plus epic "Thirteen." (You might recall Faith No More's punkish polka and a straight-faced cover of the Commodores chestnut "Easy.")
Among its contemporaries, in proficiency, mature songcraft, and adventurousness, Mushroomhead reminds me most of System of a Down. They work in different idioms, but both groups seem willing to try just about anything and appear unafraid of looking foolish. The material isn't always great, but it's rarely dull and is always heads and shoulders above anything their peers are doing.
Tickets to Mushroomhead and Avenged Sevenfold are $15. The all-ages show starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 3. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.