Review Summary: They don’t apologise, and that’s just the way it is.
Hollywood Undead are a rather awkward band. Their fusion of rap, hard rock and melodic emo sounds like the soundtrack to a turn-of-the-millennium nostalgia party- not an era most rock fans want to remember, really. Their debut album “Swan Songs” had some good nu-metal throwbacks, but it also came with awful, clichéd attempts at party hip-hop that marred the band from being taken seriously in any respect. Now, three years and a change of singer later, “American Tragedy” is here to take their anthems for the apocalypse after-party back to the disenfranchised masses.
They certainly know how to make an entrance. “Been to Hell” is driven by slamming rhythms and crunching guitars, bristling with aggression perfectly matched by the venomous rapped verses. Fortunately for fans of “Swan Songs”, new singer Danny shares the same melodic sheen in his voice as the departed Deuce. And while Charlie Scene still sounds far too much like Eminem, Johnny 3 Tears retains the edginess to his voice that made him the star of Swan Songs. “Been to Hell” gets the ball rolling well, but then comes the obligatory “*** the haters” song, “Apologise”, and the Hollywood Undead clichés are back in full force.
Aside from Linkin Park channelling lead single “Hear Me Now”, the rest of the first half of “American Tragedy” is marred by the god awful lyrics that made their debut such an uncomfortable listen. “I Don’t Wanna Die” and “My Town” do at least have catchy pop choruses, but then the poorly written verses come back in and ruin it all. “Comin’ in Hot” and the idiotically monikered “Gangsta Sexy” have brilliantly produced music behind them, but the goofball lyrics sap much of the enjoyment from listening to them. It’s difficult to refrain from stopping the album at this point, but hang on in there, things get better.
If the first half of “American Tragedy” is the juvenile, “bitches n’ booze” side of Hollywood Undead, the second half is the more introspective, “we’re all gonna die” side. While the lyrics do stray into Staind-esque moping on occasion, it’s undoubtedly the better facet of the band’s sound. This emo-rap hybrid really should not work, but it does. “Lights Out” echoes “Apologise” in its us-against-the-world vibe, but instead of sounding unnecessarily cocksure, it is instead tetchy and defiant, the expletives actually sounding serious for the first time.
The best moments of “American Tragedy” come in the three song knockout of “Coming Back Down”, “Bullet” and “Levitate”. The former incorporates acoustic guitars and a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on an All Time Low album, with a love-lorn summery atmosphere that feels warm and comfortable for the band. “Bullet” is probably the most interesting piece that Hollywood Undead have crafted to date. Meshing cheery melodies and instrumentation against lyrics of a suicidal teenager sounds odd at first, but its carefree vibe evokes the innocence of youth wonderfully.
“Levitate” marks its place in the upper echelon with a truly magnificent chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on mainstream radio, while Charlie Scene’s final verse is one of the best on the album. Following those three slices of brilliance, “Pour Me”, a self-pitying hangover ballad, sounds somewhat mediocre, but the momentum is hiked right back up with the charging rap-metal of “Tendencies” at the very close. It’s violence and aggression echo “Been to Hell”, making it an effective end to the album.
If Hollywood Undead would only get serious and drop the cheesy hip-hop songs, they would really be on to something. They still have about 2 many members, and still stray into lyrical tedium far too often, but their My Chemical Romance meets Eminem sound is unique in music at the moment. If they could just get their act together and leave their juvenile side behind, they have the potential to make rap rock a powerful force in music again.
Hear Me Now
Coming Back Down