Artist: Hollywood Undead
Album: New Empire Volume 1
Release Date: February 14th 2020
Reviewed By: Curt Ubank
Everyone in the Hard Rock/Metal scene seems to have fairly strong feelings about Hollywood Undead, not all of them good. Most of that seems to be based off the fact that they’re a Rap Rock band in goalie masks, a slightly more ghetto version of bands like Slipknot or Mushroomhead. They’ve always been kinda just…. there. I personally haven’t paid much attention to them, aside from reading occasional Kerrang or Metal Hammer write-ups, or stumbling across them on a Soundwave stage. So sure, I’ll throw the disc on and give them a chance, see how they go.
The second single off the album is the opening track “Time Bomb”, and its named appropriately, this track goes OFF! Keeping way closer to the rock side of the scale, crisp crunchy guitars, electronic backings and an incredibly catchy bridge and chorus… do yourself a favour and go listen to that track as soon as you can, it’s a lot of fun.
“Heart of a champion” starts with loads more synth, almost a “Linkin Park” style to it, this track wouldn’t feel out of place in the early 2000s which is a great nostalgic throwback feeling for anyone who weathered those years, like me. “Already dead” follows that same vibe, with a huge layered sound, it’s at about this point on the album, I questioned myself… “Is this really the Hollywood Undead” I remember? Its an eerie melody laden trip, and its great.
“Empire” strays back into rap territory, just beats, lyrics and synth for most of the verses, with a nice sprinkling of electronic vocal distortion. Definitely the most modern track of the album so far, which doesn’t change direction much with “Killin it” Minimalist beats and fairly straight forward lyrics, with a few fun nods to Godzilla, Stephen King and serial killer John Wayne Gacey. Good times. “Enemy” throws us a high energy guitar lick, and a hilariously large usage of Motherfucker. This is one of those stand out tracks that will get people jumping at a festival, with another arena-ready chorus that almost strays a little pop punk in its melody. It’s a great guitar laden romp. “Upside Down” follows that trend, sounding very reminiscent of 2017’s “California Dreaming”(Another great track from Hollywood Undead). Its got a great pop punk/metalcore flavour to it, and I’d say a big part of that is a vocal cameo from “Sleeping with Sirens” Kellin Quinn. The guest spots continue with pop punk heavyweight Benji “Good Charlotte” Madden on “Second Chances”. This song is ethereal and expansive, a complex yet incredibly heavy track. It’s definitely a huge stand out on this album, with energy, variance and an almost timeless sound. Totally unexpected, but thoroughly welcome.
The album closes with “Nightmare”. Tinkling pianos and minimalist beats across the board with this one, loads of electronic distortion. It certainly conjuors the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare, especially an unfinished line capped off with a flat-lining heart monitor. It’s perfectly serviceable, but almost feels a little out of place to finish this album off, especially chasing a bombastic track like “Second Chances”.
“Hollywood Undead” have crafted a damn good album, mixing multiple musical genres, vocal styles, nostalgic sounds and even bands together to create something really special. It sounds perfectly at home within their back catalog, yet totally different and mature at the same time. If you’re not a fan of “Hollywood Undead”, this may very well change that. Some songs may not hit their mark for you, but listened cover-to-cover, it’s hard to deny that the hard work and tenacity of this band has paid off very well. “New Empire Vol. One” is out on Valentine’s Day, and I reckon you should give this band some “Second Chances”
Hollywood Undead is
J-Dog — Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keys
Funny Man — Vocals
Johnny 3 Tears — Vocals, Bass
Charlie Scene — Vocals, Guitars
Danny Murillo — Vocals, Keys, Guitar, Bass
Heart of a Champion