Review Summary: A solid send-off, with a promising future.
Cutting straight to the chase here; Welcome Home
is the best album HELLYEAH has ever produced, but it’s not necessarily for the reasons it should be. You see, essentially, Welcome Home
is a by-product of life’s ironies, almost to the point of being the butt of a joke. For the uninitiated, HELLYEAH’s very existence stands on the shoulders of the late Dimebag Darrell – Pantera’s very talented guitar player who lost his life far too early on – and was created by several well-established musicians who wanted to pay their respects to metal’s lost legend. And, look, I’ve never hidden my disdain for almost everything HELLYEAH has ever produced – I find their music to be aimed at the lowest common denominator, and their sound and image has always come across as trashy and tasteless, for lack of a better term – but I can at least appreciate the sentiment behind their initial concept. Past the barroom-brawling-tobacco-spitting image the band originally coined for themselves back in 2006, the success of their self-titled release has seen a continuation lasting 13 years and counting, but in dragging it on, they have diminished the worth of that foundational idea, and thus bringing themselves into the situation they’re in now.
Indeed, HELLYEAH is at a weird junction in its own life: in 2019, the band is down to just two of its original members, while the whole selling point of Welcome Home
is to pay tribute to yet another one of Pantera’s deceased members, Vinnie Paul Abbott, who died last year from heart disease. It’s a paradox that brings a bizarre aura to this whole album; to think, the very same drummer who was in Pantera, and helped form HELLYEAH in memory of Dimebag Darrell (his younger brother), is now being memorialised with the very same band. For devoted fans, they will be pleased to know that Vinnie managed to play on all but “Skyy and Water” before his passing, making Welcome Home
a more touching and personal affair to drive the context of this album home. But in trying to separate this crazy situation from the album itself, one would assume there’s a bit more weight behind Welcome Home
than what HELLYEAH is typically accustomed to dishing out – after all, all the pieces are there to make something more noteworthy.
In that regard, the results are… mixed. Sonically, this is the strongest HELLYEAH has ever sounded, a blend of Panteraesque riffs with a lean on Mudvayne’s heavier sensibilities. Sure, the Mudvayne comparison situates itself on the latter end of their career than the former, but the likes of “Black Flag”, “Oh My God”, “Welcome Home” and “At Wick’s End” showcases a generous offering of that style and makes for a more rounded and interesting experience, overall. In fact, Welcome Home
is actually a pretty competent metal record that tones down on the obnoxious elements associated with their previous works. Unden!able
was far from a good album, but it teased these kinds of sounds enough to make it their most cohesive sounding album to date, so it’s good to see HELLYEAH building upon that and letting them flourish more in Welcome Home
. Chad’s lyrics are a big improvement as well, and elevate the quality of the songs to a higher grade: with the exception of “Perfect”, “I’m the One” and “333”, the lyrics and vocal performances are – for the most part – fairly grounded and focused by HELLYEAH standards.
To my surprise, there is a fair bit of enjoyment to be had here. The inherent problems which bog Welcome Home
down largely stem from superficial writing. This is nothing new for the band, but for a record centring itself around Vinnie, the lyrics feel like they’re skirting around the topic in a humdrum manner in favour of really getting into the nitty-gritty of it all: “333” delves into the initial torment, “Welcome Home” tackles the loss with a positive perception in dealing with it, and “Skyy and Water” is an overt send-off for their friend, but beyond that the album lacks real
lyrical depth. The same goes for a good portion of the music: the good ideas are present throughout, but they don’t feel all that fleshed out – occasionally hitting dull moments like the generic “I’m the One”, a riff-for-radio number that lacks even a morsel of its own character, or “Black Flags”’s verse which fails to stand as tall as its catchy chorus. Overall however, “Perfect” is the only bad
song on here, everything else ranges from inoffensively generic alt-metal, to legitimately engaging moments that can be quite heavy at times. The band is slowly showing signs of credibility by paving their own way, rather than coming across as unintentional satire. With the passing of Vinnie Paul, it’s going to be interesting to see where the band goes from here on out, but all things considered, things are looking pretty promising.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
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