I’ll openly admit that I approached this album review rather gingerly. I was initially not expecting to be reviewing this given that I’m not the most familiar with the band’s work, but then I guess that means I’ll come at it from an unbiased perspective. Enough of my waffling now, let’s get right into it.
Having the classic hard rock formula down to a tee, the first two tracks, “Break The Fall” and “Crooked Teeth”, set the pace for the rest of the album as a whole. Mid-paced thundering drums, simple but roof-raising guitar riffs and the vocals of Shaddix culminate in what can almost be seen as cliché.
Arguably one of my favourite tracks on the album, “My Medication” floats between an almost psychedelic style and the modern metal sound that’s all so prevalent these days. However, the band vary it up by adding in little acoustic guitar riffs here and there. The same can be said of “Born For Greatness” featuring its synthetic brass opening and almost ‘pop’-esque vibe. It’s hard to imagine that the previous track was on the same album, but it somehow fits in and makes for a nice bit of variety.
The traditional hard rock style makes a resurgence on “American Dream” with the stadium filling riffs and almost anthemic chorus. I can see this song going a storm live with some of the eager fans singing along to the chorus. “Periscope” once again slows things down and can be considered to be the ballad of the album with guest vocalist Skylar Grey adding that little extra cherry on top.
“Help” and “Sunset Trailer Park” follow the similar theme of hard rock song followed by a more alternative song. While the formula does work, it does feel like a cheap knock-off of some nu-metal and not the traditional hard rock that is experienced on some of the other tracks.
Ending the album, “Traumatic” and “None of the Above” vary the formula somewhat with the former having the hard rock and the latter also having the hard rock but again with the ‘pop’ stuff slid in as well. Unlike some of the other tracks though, it works on this occasion. The sections contrast enough and fit, unlike the parts of “Sunset Trailer Park”.
My only real thought after listening to this album a few times is… what happened? The Papa Roach I remember was a high octane hard rock outfit that didn’t care for any of the pop culture. It seems as though the band didn’t think this way and decided to embrace some of the more modern trends in music. Why I don’t know, but in some songs, it works, and in others, it doesn’t. Then again, that’s just my opinion. Existing fans may well find the material here follows on well from more recent albums.
Standout Tracks: My Medication, Periscope, Traumatic
Second Opinion from Mosh: Unlike James, I’ve followed Papa Roach since he was barely out of nappies (seriously, it gets scary when you can talk about work colleagues like that and it’s actually true). I always look forward to a new release from them, but do realise that – like many artists – their absolute wailing classic albums are likely in their back catalogue. How do you top Infest and Murder?
To be fair, they’ve tried to keep themselves fresh where other acts have stagnated and the anger is still there in their songs along with the signature catchy melodies. The title track is a perfect example, with a belting post-chorus flurry just designed to create violence in the live setting. The verses encourage punky pogo-ing and the pre-chorus is an angst-ridden singalong. This is the formula Papa Roach perfected back in the day and it’s heartening to know it’s still there.
Are they trying a little too hard with the eclectic mix on here? Perhaps. The good news is that, on the whole, it works. Personally, I’d rate it a little higher than James – say a 7/10, “very good” – but that’s partly due to the fact that their classic material is so damn good I know they’re capable of not just “very good” but mindblowing.
Crooked Teeth is out on May 19th