The New Game by Mudvayne
Release date : November 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
In 2007's summer, plans to cut Mudvayne's fourth studio album were temporarily shelved so that vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett could tour further as part of Hellyeah, a supergroup which features erstwhile Pantera / Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott amongst the ranks, and boasts a top ten Billboard 200 album in the form of their eponymous April 2007 debut. Once touring wrapped up, Mudvayne began cutting tracks at Balance Production Studios in Mandeville, Los Angeles with producer Dave Fortman (erstwhile Ugly Kid Joe guitarist, who's produced albums by the likes of Evanescence and Slipknot). A mid August 2008 update revealed the fact that Matthew McDonough and Tribbett had completed recording their respective contributions (drums and guitars), with bass and vocals to follow. Mixing was handled by Jeremy Parker, whilst Ted Jensen undertook mastering duties. Fortman stated that the album's tentative title was The New Game, a title which remained. Additionally, much had been penned in support of a follow up effort.
In early September, The New Game's track listing was unveiled. Midway into the month, an audio sample of new track “Fish Out of Water” was available for downloading via Best Buy's official website. Later that month, audio samples of “Fish Out of Water”, “A New Game”, and “Do What You Do” were made available for streaming via Mudvayne's official MySpace page. From September 23rd, inaugural single “Do What You Do” was available for listening via Rock radio stations. Within thirty-six hours, over seventy-five stations added the track to their playlists. To coincide with The New Game's release, Mudvayne teamed alongside Best Buy and Ticketmaster to launch a new program entitled The Album is the Ticket. Whomever pre-ordered the album via Best Buy was granted an opportunity to purchase a ticket from The New Game Tour; each pre-sale physical album was accompanied by a code which granted each buyer access to a private fanclub area upon TheAlbumIsTheTicket.com where concert tickets were available on a first come, first served basis. Those who couldn't afford concert tickets could watch a live webcast of their chosen concert. Additionally, these buyers were afforded a one year membership to Mudvayne's official fan club.
On October 4th at Roller Coaster Studios in East Hanover, New Jersey, a music video was filmed in support of “A New Game”. Frankie Nasso (who's worked with such acts as All That Remains, Hatebreed, Emmure, and Brian “Head” Welch) helmed direction, and additionally did so for “Fish Out of Water” and “Do What You Do”. On November 10th, Mudvayne appeared on the nationally syndicated radio show Rockline. That same day, “Do What You Do”'s music video premiered upon MTV's Unleashed. That same month, the whole album was made available for streaming via Yahoo! Music's Early Edition.
Despite the fact that Hellyeah's influence is audible (within the production, particularly), The New Game ventures further in the direction sought by predecessor Lost and Found (2005). Favouring a more mainstream, melody heavy sound, Mudvayne further distance themselves from their bizarre earlier works.
Upon The New Game, immediately evident is its raw sound. Fortman maintains the track's dirtier vibe, and performs a stellar job in doing so. The producer occasionally aims towards the listener's jugular vein, favouring creepiness which boasts an old school ambience, and within “Same Ol’” and “The Hate in Me”, this is audibly apparent. In most instances, the tracks seemingly advocate Hard Rock peppered via a Metal tinge. These numbers don't quite achieve radio quality, and in this reviewer's opinion, this isn't a weakness. In light of the fact that Mudvayne's sonics have eternally possessed a thick, solid essence, longtime fanatics of the group may feel slightly uncomfortable. However, Mudvayne's slightly dirtier sound proves delightful.
Given the chosen sonics, “Fish Out of Water”, “Do What You Do”, “A Cinderella Story”, and “Never Enough” could've figured amongst Lost and Found's track listing, and that's the album's central issue. If aired upon a nightly Rock radio show that broadcasts within a major city, then those respective cuts would find an extremely appropriate home, though, again, these four compositions happen to be slightly rawer than one would expect radio's usual cast of characters to be. Musically speaking, and as previously stated, these four tunes seem to be cuts which didn't eventually surface upon Lost and Found's track listing; critiqued against the tracks featured upon Lost and Found, these specific numbers aren't nearly as good, or nearly as memorable. After listening to these aforementioned songs, fanatics who found Mudvayne's almost flawless production values increasingly petulant will breathe a sigh of relief. Not necessarily subpar, the cuts are merely pedestrian, and somewhat easily fade into the background.
However, The New Game's highlights cause surprise. “Dull Boy” (which previously featured upon 2007 demos, rarities and live cuts compilation By the People, For the People) is a wholly unforeseen highlight. Musically resembling early, makeup laden Mudvayne, “Dull Boy” is an immensely heavy track, and this specific rendition far surpasses its demo counterpart - since that initial rendition, the track has matured. Of The New Game's tracks, “Dull Boy” is perhaps the only genuinely excellent number. An additionally indisputable highlight, “A New Game” grinds and twists, imploring the listener to participate, and scream along. Furthermore, it's extremely heavy, causing this reviewer to wonder as to why The New Game's fellow cuts are so light.
Generally speaking, The New Game is an album in which Mudvayne rebuilds itself. Despite its loose concept, certain leftover tracks prove respectable. Unfortunately, Mudvayne encounters difficulty in attempting to discard the groove oriented flavour prevalent within their respective side projects (previously, Mudvayne employing guitar solos was deemed blasphemy). Listeners who found Lost and Found delightful will likely hold The New Game in a similar regard, though it'll further alienate those who particularly enjoy the group's earlier works.