The Blair Mushroom Project?

XX (Universal)

By David Lilly

This is not a poultry question, but which came first? Slipknot or Mushroomhead? All I'm referring to, of course, is metal bands that wear costumes, makeup and masks to achieve the always popular (in metal, anyway) "menacing" look.

I wouldn't know Slipknot's music if I heard it. What you get when you listen to this debut disc from Mushroomhead is a jackhammer of harsh, heavy guitars, thunderous drums and bass, some pretty keyboards, primal-scream vocals with electronic treatments, and, believe it or not, a string section.

Interestingly, amidst all of this music written By Mushroomhead's band members is a cover of Roger Waters' "Empty Spaces." Otherwise, I'm not sure who the lyricist is here, but it took Skinny, Shmotz, Mann and Benis to write "Chancre Sore," which contains the lyrics, "Self-absorbed chancre sore/Love you like a matador/Life is just a metaphor/Nothing's fair, love is war/Nothing more/Love you like a matador/Nothing more."

It also took the use of a lyric sheet to decipher those words, which are like a statue; they're heavy but they don't go anywhere. But come on in; there's more.

Depending on your attitude, you can consider this either a warning or an invitation: the sound of the very first song, "Before I Die," bursts out of the speakers like a hail of musical machine-gun fire. The rest of the CD isn't necessarily in that much of a hurry, but most of it is that heavy.

Hmm, I've noticed heavy use of the word "heavy" here. Why is that? Because this music weighs more than your car. But that doesn't stop the string section from making its occasional flight. That has an affect like plaids and stripes on a date, but not as geeky (note: I really like "geeky").

I've teased here, but Mushroomhead is actually kind of fun. The band's influences include, believe or not, Bjork, King Crimson and lots of obscure artists -- and one listen and you can tell they're looking for a mosh pit to play for. Besides, can you give a thumbs down to any band from Cleveland?

Remember that this is their debut effort. Check them out in the produce section (just kidding!) of