Review Summary: Quit while you're ahead, Jacoby.
On lead single and quasi-title track “Face Everything and Rise”, frontman Jacoby Shaddix boldly proclaims, “I will face everything and rise. Never gonna quit until I die!” Unfortunately, that seems to be Papa Roach’s mantra nowadays. Ever since “Last Resort” became a rock radio staple of the early 2000s, their material has consisted of rehashed nu-metal, uninspiring ballads and lazily written rockers. While there is the occasional good single, listening to new Papa Roach has become pretty predictable – their sound hasn’t changed all that much aside from a louder feel to the choruses and the addition of a bit more polish. The journey from nu-metal stalwart to irredeemable garbage isn’t exactly the sharpest decline, but there were plenty of terrible songs in the early stage of their career - "She Loves Me Not" or "Getting Away With Murder", anyone?
The main problem with F.E.A.R.
is that, although it does manage to improve on the band’s last few misfires, there’s still not enough in it to warrant repeated listens. The absence of cringeworthy tracks in the nature of “I Almost Told You That I Loved You” or “Hollywood Whore” is applauded, and the shorter length (ten songs clocking in at only 37 minutes) does make it easier to listen through the whole thing without getting tedious towards the end. Even with all that, F.E.A.R.
is still a by-the-numbers Papa Roach record, with no musical progression or evolution from records prior. There’s the obligatory “sensitive guy” ballad (“Never Have to Say Goodbye”), without a shred of emotion as usual, the angsty half-assed rocker (“Broken As Me”) and everything in between.
Sure, there are some points when the standard Papa Roach sound works – “War Over Me” and “Devil” are two late-album highlights that power through in spite of some questionable lyrics. The incorporation of strings into the former is executed surprisingly well, and the hushed “I have a purpose” manages to come off as emotionally moving. The bonus tracks “Hope for the Hopeless” and “Fear Hate Love” are some of the most energetic, power-driven songs on the record, and their relegation to B-side status is disappointing given some of the material that was put ahead of it. However, it’s the unexpected that deserves the most attention, which is exactly why “Gravity”, as laughable as it is, deserves notability. Although Shaddix rapping about the perils of money, fame, the booze and girls over a hip-hop-esque drumbeat is pretty hilarious on the surface, it’s perhaps the boldest move made on F.E.A.R.
. Add in a chorus sung with Maria Brink of In This Moment infamy, and there’s a recipe for disaster that turns out to be ironically enjoyable. There’s also the guest verse dropped by Royce da 5’9” to close out “Warriors”, but that’s an entirely separate issue.
is one of those albums that is neither offensively terrible nor engaging enough for a second listen. While not as awful as The Connection
, it still feels as if Papa Roach are making the exact same songs they were a decade ago. Sure, the lyrics may be a bit more uplifting and self-reflective due to Shaddix’s personal struggles, but it’s the same safe mainstream rock with a slightly more electronically polished sheen. There’s just not much life to go around, and the bits of energetically-driven material that do exist really don’t have much else going for them. Turning anger into anthems shouldn't be this tedious, and yet every line about "walk[ing] the self-destructive lonely road" feels forced and ingenuine. If they're truly insistent on never quitting until they die, then we're in for a long ride.