REVIEW: HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD – “New Empire, Vol. 1”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Over the years, there have been countless artists who have combined different genres of music into something brand-new, something people haven’t heard before, something so unique that it makes history and establishes a distinct genre of its own. Having come up in the `80s, I was witness to the fusion of rap and rock made famous by the collaboration between Run DMC and Aerosmith which gave rise to the rap-rock phenomenon adapted by so many bands since. Rap rock itself has evolved and has influenced a myriad of bands, not the least of which is Hollywood Undead who is set to release their 6th full-length studio album on February 14th, 2020, ‘New Empire, Vol.1’.
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Hollywood Undead formed in 2005 and gained a following from posting their music on MySpace. Remember Myspace? From there, they gained an almost cult following, enjoying both fan and critical praise. Currently consisting of Jorel “J-Dog” Decker, Dylan “Funny Man” Alvarez, George “Johnny 3 Tears” Ragan, Jordon “Charlie Scene” Terrell and Daniel “Danny” Murillo”, Hollywood Undead successfully mixes the rap and rock concept and has been doing so for 15 years with little disruption caused by several line-up changes during their commercial existence.
Being a low-key fan of Hollywood Undead’s previous catalog, I was both excited and dubious about listening to their new music as their last album ‘Five’ was a slight departure from their earlier sound. My doubt was quickly replaced with a pleasant surprise. This album in its entirety is full of energy, the lyrics are simplistic but deep and the production value is high. They rely heavily on pre-recorded dubs, synthesizer and programmed drums which gives it an almost dubstep feel, while also using unique sounds within the composition which also gives it a slightly industrial vibe. The addition of vocals from all five members of the band lends an extraordinary dynamic. The overall make-up of the album has slightly less of a metal edge than earlier works such as “Young”, “Comin’ in Hot”, “Hear Me Now”. But, the metal edge is definitely still there and discernible at first listen.
To be honest, the first four songs on the record portray the metal edge fairly well. “TimeBomb” and “Heart of a Champion” open things up, both with a great beat and the dubstep style that many younger fans will be familiar with. “Already Dead” displays the variance between the vocal styles of the different band members and is, quite frankly, a killer song. “Empire” has a super catchy chorus with pre-recorded tracks mixed in that compliment the catchy chorus superbly. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown of swords…”. “Killin It” tends to get a little wild and sounds a bit more EDM than rap-rock. Rounding out the album are songs “Enemy”, “Upside Down” and “Second Chances”, which perpetuate the direction the band has taken on this outing. Rap-rock fusion leaning slightly more towards the rap than the rock. The final song, “Nightmare”, is basically a straight rap song. There’s little of the underlying metal edge in this song than in the rest of the record.
Hollywood Undead may not be the average metalhead’s cup of tea. Established fans will love this album. It has solid writing, elevated vocals, standout beats, and heavy lyrical content. It also gives the mainstream metal fan a harder taste of EDM that they may not hear often or are familiar with. If you want something different but still tasty fare, give this one a listen!