Release Date: 18 Jan 2019
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OK, I have to admit that I was a little intrigued when I heard that Papa Roach had a new album coming out that was going to be the most extreme thing they'd ever done. No, I wasn't expecting them to suddenly sound like Gorgoroth or Cannibal Corpse but I did wonder at what they would sound like nineteen years on from Infest, which clearly was far from their last resort.
Now I'm hardly a nu metal fan. I'm enjoying the way that metal has embraced the globe because, unlike pop music, it isn't the Americans driving change and nu metal mostly stayed in the US, where it's continued on as a sort of heavy pop music, tied more to catchy vocals, bouncy riffs and current trends than to any serious innovation within the wider genres. Globally nowdays, it's the UK driving more traditional rock music and Scandinavia driving the extreme end and the influential bands hailing from all over the place.
Staying true to that heavy pop music idea, this is catchy stuff. Renegade Music is so catchy that even non-fans will be singing along and the bombast behind those melodies is perfect for the WWE entrance theme genre. The whole thing bounces along nicely too. Even if, like me, you're hardly the target audience, it's not going to depress you and you might leave the album just a little happier than you were when you went in.
There is variety here but it starts out mostly from the nu metal playbook. Not the Only One reminds of Static X while Who Do You Trust? sounds more like Rage Against the Machine. Come Around has a punk pop edge to it that wouldn't seem out of place with Green Day. The eighty second punch of I Suffer Well is the fastest thing I've heard Papa Roach do and it's more like something you might expect from System of a Down. The most overt nod to modern pop music is the surprisingly obvious use of autotune, which may well be the single most annoying thing in music to a metalhead, even more than vocalists who rap as much as they sing.
Jacoby Shaddix still mixes up his vocal styles but his rapping isn't overdone for the majority of the album. He's said that he saw that side of his repertoire as influenced by people like Mike Patton rather than Snoop Dogg so songs like The Ending and Not the Only One are bearable to wider metal fans willing to give it a try. Where we're likely to ditch the album is Elevate, which is a modern pop song, pure and simple, a cross between boy bands like New Kids on the Block and contemporary hip hop like the bands my two year old granddaughter dances to on the TV. The autotune is overt and it's hard not to imagine a bunch of over-sexualised dancers gyrating around in unison behind it all. I hated it with a passion.
Fortunately the variety does continue to expand and there isn't another song as awful as Elevate to be found. Problems, for instance, is a pretty decent indie rock track, while Top of the World sounds is an oddly imaginative pop song that mixes Nicki Minaj with Duran Duran, while refusing to quite leave the nu metal punch entirely behind, and then adds in an ethnic Asian flavour to boot. It's the sort of song that I would never look for but find myself engrossed by when it shows up somewhere I just happen to be.
I'm not unhappy that I took the plunge and gave this a listen, but it's not remotely extreme, whatever advance press might suggest. The good side is the variety, because it's a rare track that sounds like another one, and the fact that almost all of it is catchy. The bad side is the autotune, which is unforgivable, and tracks like Elevate and Better Than Life that are as much at home on a rock album as Janet Jackson is in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, which is to say they really shouldn't be there.