Review Summary: Everyone’s favorite bro collective return with an attempt at stronger songwriting and a new vocalist, but ultimately fall short of making a truly memorable album with American Tragedy.
Hollywood Undead confuse me. First off, I don't even know how to classify the music they make. One minute they will pull out a rocker with distorted guitars and screams and next they will rap about all kinds of meaningless ***. They have a sound that really is all over the place. Their 2008 debut album Swan Songs
had a good mix of rock songs with clean vocals and screaming put together with rapping about drinking, parties, bitches, and other aspects of life. The songwriting was terrible, but they showed that they had a sound that could actually work if they found some ground with it. Now, a couple years later, they have lost their clean vocalist Deuce (which has been heavily followed in the media, as Deuce and HU are on terrible terms and keep dissing each other about the terms on which Deuce was dismissed from the group) and gained a new one in failed American Idol contestant Danny Murillo. With hopes to build on the sound from Swan Songs
and a new vocalist under their belt, Hollywood Undead had some potential to do something memorable, right? Not exactly.
actually starts off in the best way possible with the single Been To Hell. A fantastic showing off of their new sound and vocalist, it almost feels like the sequel to their previous album opener, Undead, but with less bro-some lyrics. Johnny 3 Tears and Charlie Scene rap their verses and then Danny takes over for the powerful chorus, surging instant energy into the song and showing his range and versatility as their new clean vocalist. His vocals sound like a cross between Deuce and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, and while they can be really cliche at times, they are stellar on Been To Hell. The guitars are loud and distorted and the screams pop up on occasion, making it one of their better nu metal-esque rockers. Sadly though, it is after this where the album starts to take a plunge. From there, the weaker side of their sound starts to kick in.
There are many cons throughout American Tragedy
that are very much obvious from the first listen. Many of the tracks sound the same, with the rapped verses and the cleanly sung choruses. Having Danny as the new clean vocalist seems to be something the guys like a lot, because they rely on him to create hooks in just about every single song on the album. This shows a lackluster attempt at better songwriting as just about every song sounds like it should be on the radio in minutes, bringing into question whether or not Hollywood Undead are just looking for more mainstream success with this batch of songs. Danny has a great voice and on some songs like Levitate and Coming Back Down his vocals really make the songs catchy and fun, but using him to make every song memorable makes the album weak in the end result as the others hide behind him and rap verses that only occasionally stick out. The lyrics get terrible at times, especially when they bring out their party vibe on Gangsta Sexy and Comin' In Hot, but thankfully they tried not to resort to that as much this time. The slower tempo in most of the songs is also a weak spot, as Hollywood Undead are at their best when they pull out the guitars and tone down on the rapping to make catchy rock tracks. Been To Hell and Tendencies are the only songs that feature this aspect of their sound and have faster tempos (apart from a few other songs that have cool beats going on in the background) and this also makes American Tragedy
unnecessarily boring at certain points. You begin to wish the album would just end after a while.
Despite these numerous negatives, there are a few spots where the group manage to make some fun tracks this time around. As mentioned before, Been To Hell is a great representation of their new sound and something they should do more often. Coming Back Down, also one of the singles, features some of Danny's best clean vocals and could make a good radio tune. Tendencies, the album closer, is another song where the group comes together to make a rock song. For those who liked No. 5 and Everywhere I Go off of Swan Songs
, Comin' In Hot brings the vibe of those, but comes with the price of the terrible lyrics.
What we are given by Hollywood Undead in their sophomore effort is an album that does sound better than their debut, but is still littered with a sound that isn’t yet fully harnessed and the group rely too much on their new vocalist to carry the songs to heights they never are able to reach. Some songs on here are really fun and are good for blasting in the car or at a party, but other than that there is nothing truly memorable here. Perhaps next time they will try and refine the better aspects of their sound, but even then, would they be able to do something memorable?