Hollywood Undead’s sixth studio album brings a heavier, hard-rock sound roaring to life – Be prepared to mosh in your living room…
Review by Scott Harmon
Perusing the song listing of the imminent release of the album New Empire, Vol 1. by Hollywood Undead reads like the chapters of a horror novel perhaps by Clive Barker; Chapter 1: Time Bomb, Chapter 2: Heart of a Champion; Chapter 3: Already Dead, Chapter 5: Killin It and so forth. While the song titles and their order lend themselves to allusions to a literary work, there lies within a treasure trove of music; pumping metal/rock/rap, with some nice vocal harmonies and rapped/spoken word pieces. Unfamiliar with Hollywood Undead, I decided to review this release without prejudice; meaning I didn’t research their past music catalog, their past press, or their fan reviews of concerts. Rather, I wanted to let the music stand on its own; to witness this creation to see if it moves me emotionally one way or the other.
A cursory listening may leave one to conclude they simply check all of the boxes for inclusion in the metal/rock genre, but there’s a lot more going on here than meets the ear initially. First and foremost, the production value is excellent and the arrangements are very clever. And aside from the assiduous drumming which serves as the wheels to this muscle car, the musical arrangements work perfectly with the vocal performances. The tempo is generally frenetic, but the arrangements give the words space to breathe.
Check out Hollywood Undead’s official music video for their latest single “Empire”.
Fans will find many memorable and hummable lyrics. The chorus of the third track “Empire” declares “Heavy is the head that wears that crown of thorns. . . .” which is a messianic allusion, but here it seems to refer more to the burdens of leadership. In the song “Killin It” they sing “Why do people always want what they can never be, well there’s bullets over Broadway but there’s none inside of me. . . . you’re caught in the middle of a nightmare in a dream. . . .” Some nice imagery there. Be prepared to mosh in your living room once the sixth track “Enemy” leaps up from the vinyl and smacks you in the face with a chorus that rings out “I’m so afraid of me. So what’s it gonna be? Are you my enemy?” and later there’s a spoken-word break with the following words “I look in the mirror and I hate what I see. No, it’s not somebody else that’s always f**k’n with me. No, it won’t let me rest. It won’t let me be. . . .” Powerful imagery that begs for adoption, whether by the fan who is a cog in the wheels of professional commerce or the fan feeling overwhelmed by an insensitive and ambivalent world they have yet figured out how to navigate. In short, much of the imagery will connect to many different people of different circumstances on different levels.
Check out Hollywood Undead’s official music video for their single, “Already Dead” released late last year.
Thematically, this album reaches its zenith with the seventh and eighth songs, “Upside Down” and “Second Chances” respectively. Upside Down is full of references to faith and spirituality and the perils of violating the norms of one’s religion, as expressed in the lines “Not even God can save me now. I’ve lived my life upside down. . . ” The singer is coming terms with their transgressions realizing there’s no changing the past; what’s done is done. And they’re leaving their fate to God to pass judgment on their journey. There’s some wisdom here regardless of one’s relationship to a higher being. A sidebar conversation to Upside Down, “Second Chances” is a plea for help by someone recognizing that there’s a limit to the number of times one can avoid peril when they live a life on the edge.
This album is certainly worth listening to, but its full worth will be realized after listening many times. No one gets out of this life unscathed; we will all suffer and we will all transgress. But, there are words here to offer succor during those times and later when that suffering has faded in the rearview mirror.
Hollywood Undead Is:
Johnny 3 Tears – vocals, bass guitar
J-Dog – vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, programming
Charlie Scene – vocals, guitar
Funny Man – vocals
Danny – vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass