Review Summary: Hollywood Undead continue to carry on as if the rap rock craze at the turn of the century is still ongoing; offering a third album that once again doesn’t give listeners any reason why they should be interested in the genre.
Hollywood Undead entered the rap rock game just as nu metal was practically on its death bed. The over-saturation of the scene had arguably peaked around 2003, and with Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Korn’s relevancy to angst-riddled teenage audiences slowly withering away, the genre had taken a plummeting decline in popularity just as Hollywood Undead had formed and hit Myspace with their debut song in 2005. Being among the scarce few of their dwindling kind in a post-rap metal world where post-grunge/alternative rock acts such as Staind and Three Days Grace had secured dominance over the popular modern rock waves, Hollywood Undead has since found themselves a rough niche in the alternative metal scene, but only due to the fact that it’s really the only area that they can somewhat hope to fit into. The only characteristic Hollywood Undead seems to share with their hard rocker peers is the rock instrumentation that backs their rapped/sung alternations. Indeed, other than the element of drums and guitars, Hollywood Undead’s blunt themes concerning a “gangsta” lifestyle of downing 40s, stacking papers, and getting women makes the band stick out like a sore thumb in comparison to the brooding subject matter their tour mates specialize in.
For the the two albums that they’ve released in their careers, the group has been easily identifiable for this shamelessly profane presentation of care-free partying themes, and the only real notable development that Hollywood Undead seems to have made with their third album Notes from the Underground
, is that they have almost completely dropped the shameless attitude, and have significantly toned down the tongue-in-cheek topics. Notes from the Underground
opts for a more serious and darker personality than the band is known is for, but even if the themes may have taken on a mature change, the formula of their music hasn’t altered in any way.
Small progressions in maturity aside, at its core and at face value as well, Notes from the Underground
sounds like how you’d expect a Hollywood Undead album to sound like: innocuous and uninspired metal riffs that are too polished from the over-production of the album to pack any sort of punch, serving as support for brutishly delivered rapping that lacks any and all grit with such tepid and sterile music and high-pitched clean vocals surrounding it. Like on all their records, every band member contributes vocals to the album in some fashion. The group’s third rapper, Funny Man provides a form of deep and low toned rapping that just as easily could have been achieved with voice manipulation effects, and the rest of the band members offer backing screams to songs that have a more emotional touch such as “Outside” and “Rain”.
Main rapper, Charlie Scene hasn’t made refinements to his rapping or advancements in his writing abilities since the band’s last record. His delivery still doesn’t really possess any type of rhythm, or flow, or even grace for that matter. Scene mostly just yells his head off as loud as he can in a rather thuggish manner regardless of the topic, whether it be a fit of rage over loneliness on “From the Ground", or something as absurd as comparing a quarterback’s hunched over starting position to a women flaunting her rear on “Pigskin”. Clean vocalist, Danny hasn’t made much in the way of improvement in his form either. Danny enters songs usually to only present choruses detailing the agony of being a misunderstood adolescent, and his wailing squeals of pain when doing so all too frequently jump into whining territory. The contrast between Scene’s furious shouting and Danny’s needy cries for attention that the two maintain throughout the album is one that often leads to these two opposites canceling each other out, and on top of that, this can become quite the insufferably annoying mixture at times.
In the very least, Hollywood Undead has significantly toned down the immature and trashy themes that make up their idea of a California gangsta’s lifestyle, making it much more easier to take their anthems of self-loathing seriously than it was on the past two albums when the themes conflicted and undercut each other. Even still, since the group has made no progression with this album, it’s a little sad to say that the best thing about Notes from the Underground
is that it isn’t any worse than any other one of Hollywood Undead’s albums.