By: Keith Amerson
Hollywood Undead’s Day of the Dead is their fourth official release and their first for Interscope. They’re not wasting any time, and will be on tour with this hot release. They’ll be in our area April 28 at The Ritz in Raleigh. They’ll be playing at the upcoming Carolina Rebellion in Concord, May 2 and 3; they’ll also be playing in Asheville at The Orange Peel on May 3. Click the links above to buy tickets or learn more!
If you’re not already a fan, you’re probably not going to bum-rush the line to make a blood-oath and pledge allegiance. However, if this is already a swipe-right band for you, then you will find yourself having several pleasurable weeks spinning this release. The album proper is 12 songs with three bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition.
For the first time since their platinum plus debut (Swan Songs) the band seems primed to take over a niche that has been sorely overlooked in recent years: nu metal/rap rock. This genre has been rather dormant until the last few years, but it is starting to make a resurgence driven by Hollywood Undead.
The band currently consist of Daniel “Danny” Murillo (vocals, keyboards, rhytm guitar), Jordon “Charlie Scene” Terrell (vocals, lead guitar), Jorel “J-Dog” Decker (vocals, rhytm guitar, bass, keyboards, synths, programming), George “Johnny 3 Tears” Ragan (vocals, bass), Dlyan “Funny Man” Alvarez (vocals), and Matthew “Da Kurlzz” Busek (vocals, drums, percussion).
Leaking systematic singles since early February, the band has prepared its rabid fans for the March 31 album drop. This is an album that features new nuances, styles and sounds. Every song was written as a unit in the same room, which is how the band wrote when they first formed. On recent albums they have gotten away from this with individual members bringing in songs with little left to work out.
If anything, the band has banked on being acerbically schizophrenic and that reputation is further solidified here. You can also hear the cohesion and tightness that writing together as a collective entity has brought them. They veer from party hearty anthems, to well-rounded think pieces. This is a band in motion, seldom able to settle for a single theme for more than the running time of a single song.
You hear touches of Biohazard and Snot’s heaviness, Sevendust’s rich choruses, an intense connection to Linkin Park and a more contemporary nod to EDM. These guys could have toured comfortably with Static-X, The Deftones or the Devil Without a Cause incarnation of Kid Rock and they would have blown then crown contenders Saliva, Disturbed and Drowning Pool out of the water.
“Usual Suspects” kicks the album off with the line: “woke up one morning on the Sunset Strip with a half-smoked blunt and some blood on my lip.” It’s a bouncy, heavy beat with a vocal delivery much more buyoant than the material it describes. Within the first minute we know we are going on a journey through the dark underbelly of Hollywood Undead’s Los Angeles. We move right along into “How We Roll” which continues to lean heavy on a rap vocal delivery with music that would have been big in 1999 or 2015. This song continues the vibe of partying and covers drinking, smoking and fucking in quick succession.
“Day of the Dead” takes a serious turn dealing with some dark subject-matter including addiction and death. “Not afraid to cry from this cocaine sickness. I’m not afraid to die let the Good Book witness… It’s the Day of the Dead and you’re on our hit list.” This song also features an incredibly catchy hook/chorus and begs to be put on repeat a few times.
“War Child” leads us back into the party with some overt EDM love, but we only stay for a couple of drinks because “Dark Places” takes us back into the band’s darker/more serious side. The title of the song is an apt description of how it sounds. A sinister, dark tone drives the song which houses my favorite line on the album: “I can’t haunt a house if it haunts me too.” Johnny 3 delivers these words with a sincerity and hurt that I wish the band would show a little more often.
“Take Me Home” comes on with drums reminiscent of early industrial with a springy chorus and backing vocals. This segues into “Gravity” which starts as a more straight ahead rock/alternative number with a melodic chorus before it throws in a few rap segments and then returns to its original vibe. This song makes you want to move; it would be a great driving song for a long trip. It manages to be a strangely upbeat song about feeling out of place and time and thinking on an ex.
“DEITWHTFD” builds with intensity and smolders with fuzzed-out guitars. The title is an acronym for the lyrics: “Does Everybody in the World Have to Fucking Die?” The band answers its own question with: “Everybody in the World Has to Fucking Die!” “Disease” comes on like a bastardized march with a catchy chorus that sounds like it’s being barked from a machine out of some dystopian future. This song refuses to leave your head, even days after it is over.
“Party By Myself” brings the party back full force, except now there’s nobody else around to which the band says: “Fuck everyone else, I’ma party by myself.” This is a hip-hop-dripped, EDM-frosted blast of braggadocio. This feeling spills over into “Live Forever” which is a guitar-driven party number that features a propulsive bass/synth line throughout.
This brings us to “Save Me” which is the end of the album proper. All of their different elements, influences and styles merge perfectly on this track. They open up and spill real blood and emotion. The line “Love’s a drug, I’m an addict. Ditch my heart just to kick the habit” resonates with anyone who has been hurt in love and that’s just about everyone.
As a cohesive whole, the album should end here and technically does, but if you buy the deluxe edition you get three bonus tracks: “Guzzle, Guzzle” is another blast of party culture; “I’ll Be There” is a song about love, friendship and loss. While I’m not sure how serious it is, the song is catchy as hell. It is stylistically way out of place on this collection, but it’s easily the best of the bonus tracks. “Let Go” is a final lap around the rap/rock pool with a catchy enough chorus. Still, the album proper (Tracks 1-12) is stronger without these outtakes.
The band seems pulled/possessed by a diabolical duality to party like rock stars and, at the same time, expose their souls like poets. It’s interesting to hear these struggling, disparate forces vie for dominance. Their sound is frantic, crazy, brutal, melodic and sometimes frustrating, but it works because there is an unassailable honesty in their work. Some of the songs, especially the party/rap-rock tracks, are the equivalent of comfort food in that you have a basic road map of where you’re heading and what you’re getting, but that’s part of what makes it good and a big part of why you will gladly call “shotgun” for the voyage.
My younger self would have loved these tracks; my older (done-seen-shit-and-lived-through-it) self prefers the more serious, somber tones. They hit more of a personal, raw nerve and feel more like you’re seeing behind the mask these guys wear and into the real band hiding behind the machismo curtain. They make interesting music that makes you move and occasionally stop and think.
This is a solid outing from a solid group of creative musicians. They also know how to turn a phrase and leave it in your head. I enjoyed our time together and can’t wait to see what these guys do next.
Visit the Hollywood Undead online merch store to purchase their newest album, Day of The Dead. There you can find out when they’re coming to your neck of the woods, and catch up on albums you haven’t heard yet.
Remember, they’ll be in our area April 28 at The Ritz in Raleigh. They’ll be playing at the upcoming Carolina Rebellion in Concord, May 2 and 3; they’ll also be playing in Asheville at The Orange Peel on May 3. Click the links above to buy tickets or learn more!