Style: Groove Metal
Release Date: 27 Sep 2019
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I've read that Vinnie Paul recorded the drum tracks for the sixth Hellyeah album before he passed. However, he died in June 2018 and the band weren't supposed to start recording until November, so I'm not too sure about that. Frankly, it doesn't matter. Whoever's behind the kit here does the job well enough that we hardly notice because we're caught up in the songs that rely on these beats. Paul's live replacement is Roy Mayorga, from Stone Sour and Soulfly, though he hasn't been listed as an official member that I can see.
Let's assume that everything here is Vinnie Paul and that makes it a solid exit to remember him by. Certainly, the last track, a sort of hidden track that isn't hidden, is an opportunity for him to leave us with a final word. "Don't ever think it's not a good time," he tells us, because "a wonderful time is irreplaceable." Thanks, Vinnie.
Hellyeah are a band that I can enjoy, even though they're a lot closer to nu metal than I like. They bring in a lot more influences than most such bands: hard rock, heavy metal, southern rock, grunge, even country and end up with a rather energetic groove metal sound. Just listening to this album in my office was enough for me to picture the crowd at a Hellyeah gig in motion right behind me. "Welcome to the slamboree!" indeed.
They start out strong with a couple of punchy but catchy songs that could be obvious singles. 333 was the first of five released thus far with Oh My God the third, even with a slower grind. Black Flag Army is straight up groove metal with a prowling bass, punchy riffs and shouty vocals. It's effortless and exactly what Hellyeah do best so it's almost impossible not to respond to its call. Boy, however, is close enough to nu metal to cross the line for me. It has plenty of bounce and power, along with tongue tripping lyrics, but it isn't my thing, even after Black Flag Army threatened to convert me.
However, there's more variety here. The title track adds orchestration and a more unusual melodic line for Hellyeah. It's an odd mixture of Radiohead and Metallica and it's pretty cool. This mashup style comes back on Bury You too and, frankly, it's more interesting to me than the regular stuff even though I'm usually wary of overproducing bands who thrive on their raw edge.
The band's grungier angle is more overt later in the album. At Wick's End is built on a solid riff reminiscent of Powerman 5000 but it gets far grungier, delivered with a real sneer. Somehow this song also reminded me of Testament and Saigon Kick at their grungiest, say One Step Closer. I never expected to hear both of those in a single song, especially alongside Powerman. Perfect kicks off with an incredibly dirty guitar but instead of continuing into the swamp rock we might expect, it becomes a loud pop song with the best lyrics on the album: "You're as perfect as an apple with a worm and a bruise."
The biggest departure from the band's regular sound is Sky and Water, which is like a grungy Blind Melon playing country. There's so much grit in Chad Gray's voice on this song that we can't help wondering if the band put him (and maybe everything else too) through a filter. He sounds gritty anyway, of course, but that's ramped up to eleven on this one.
It's an odd song to end the album because it takes us away from the bounce. Sure, Sky and Water couldn't have been put anywhere else on the track list without creating even more upheaval but it does that even here at the end. While this isn't my go to music, I enjoyed the album and would have enjoyed it more had I left it on the bounce a track earlier.