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Album Review: Mad Season – Above

Album Review: Mad Season – Above

Mad Season is one of the most obscure and mythical bands from the original Seattle grunge scene.

If you are a huge Mad Season fan or you are just a nostalgic soul having listened to the wonderful music of Mad Season in high school in the early nineties, you are up for a treat!

The one and only album by this unique band is finally being re-released and available for your listening pleasure.

Who’s behind Mad Season?

Mad Season was formed in 1994 by members of three well known Seattle based groups: Alice in Chains,

Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam. This is the only album ever released by Mad Season, a band that comprised of vocal and frontman Layne Staley, drummer Barrett Martin, guitarist Mike McCready and bass player John Baker Saunders.
Mad Season is best known for “River of Deceit”, which doesn’t mean the other songs on the record aren’t as excellent. On the contrary, their sole album Above is a masterpiece of its time.

The Impulse

Much of Mad Season’s success came about due to spontaneity and mere creative impulse. Sources state that McCready simply gathered the band and without having any material, immediately scheduled a live show.

The show turned out to be a great success. Many of the songs that would later appear on Above, were created during the show. After developing a concept for an album, the band chose a name – MadSeason, a term for the time of the year when psilocybin mushrooms are blooming.

Side A

Above is definitely one extraordinary album. It opens with nostalgic reminder “Wake Up”, a song that is sure to get you back to melancholic times and places. The song has great guitar work and good rhythm.

The vocals are strong and clear: Staley is singing about his drug addiction, battles to overcome his demons and his depression and disappointment with the world. ”X Ray Mind” is more rhythmical and dark. It’s followed by the most epic song on the album – “River Of Deceit”.

The number starts out with quiet guitar, similar to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”, but then continues to an alternative rock / grunge melody with some mellow blues influences. The lyrics were directly inspired by Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, a book which Staley was reading at the moment. This is the song that had the biggest success compared to others from the album.

There was also a music video made for “River of Deceit”, directed by Josh Taft. The fourth song on the record is “I’m Above”, a song on which even Screaming Roar’s Mark Lanegan’s vocals appear. “Artificial Red” is a bluesy number which again covers the theme of drug addiction and recovery. The following track, “Lifeless Dead” is a heavy/ prog number which features incredible riffs and pairing vocals.

One of the greatest songs on the record is without doubt grunge number “I don’t Know Anything”. It’s buzzy and droney, if not a bit Nirvana-ish, similar to “Love Buzz”, but also similar to a lot of Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam stuff.

Side B

The band still manages to pull off a dark sound even with its “Long Gone Day” which has a smooth latin-jazz vibe. What follows is a great instrumental called “November Hotel” that starts off quietly but then unleashes an explosive seventies style guitar jam, all hypnotic and psychedelic. Quiet and mellow “All Alone” revisits the first part of the album.

Staley’s vocals come back as a chant that a new day has arrived. The re-release features several bonus numbers like previously unreleased “Locomotive”, “Black Book”, “Slip Away” and a cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier” . “Locomotive” is connected to “All Alone” with a nice interlude.

Mad Season’s Above is one of the last restless shouts of the grunge generation. After 1995 a new era in music arrives, and the grunge scene slowly fades away. Mad Season’s only album Above has stood the test of time and has lived up to tell the story of Seattle (“the dusty ghost town that used to be my city”) and its darkly beautiful urban youth of the early nineties.

Mad Season’s Above plus the five awesome bonus tracks are now available at Music Record Shop in an expanded double 12’’ vinyl edition. For those who sign the newsletter, there is $5 off the first purchase offer!