Sound: For better or worse, the supergroup Hellyeah isn't straying too far outside of its comfort zone on the sophomore album Stampede. While this move to stay within the same creative realm won't likely alienate the band's set fan base, it also won't earn many new eager listeners, either. In many ways Stampede's effect is as heavily dependent upon the lyrical messages as the music. So if you love the idea of entire songs devoted to strippers or drinking/partying, Stampede will be your cup of tea.
Stampede certainly bounces between two worlds: Southern rock with a good deal of grit and the metal fare you might hear from vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett deliver on a regular basis in Mudvayne. The opening single Cowboy Way, as the title suggests, caters to Southern roots, but it is certainly still filled to the gills with crunchy distortion and infectious hooks. Hell of a Time is without a doubt the standout, however, with a bluesy slide and instantly memorable melody line. When Hellyeah ventures into more straightforward metal territory on tracks like The Debt That Pays and It's On, the tone of the album shifts toward a darker, heavier vibe, with even a Dimebag element to the riff work at times.
At other end of the spectrum are acoustic tracks and generally mellower numbers that focus more upon the introspective lyrics. Better Man features some beautifully executed acoustic work from Tribbett and Tom Maxwell, who also incorporate tasteful, restrained electric leads throughout. It's not necessarily the most original in terms of melody, but this is one of the cases where the song is more about the message (overcoming your past to become a more respectable person, in this case), and that open-book mentality tends to outshine any mediocrity that might be present in the music. // 7
Lyrics: It's always refreshing to hear artists step away from predictable rock topics to dig into their most personal histories/pain, and a track like Better Man is certainly a heartfelt, honest look at a painful childhood. Unfortunately, rock clichs usually take over the bulk of the tracks on Stampede. It's forgivable and passable for the most part, but you do have to cringe at least a little when you hear Gray sing lines like, She ain't built for virtue; She's built for sinShe's a, she's a, she's a pole rider. // 7
Overall Impression: Hellyeah does seem to have added an even bigger dose of their Mudvayne roots into Stampede, which allows for a more aggressive album on the whole. It's On! features some insane drumming from Vinnie Paul, and the entire instrumentation almost feels like a tornado at times. Cold As A Stone highlights the groove-oriented side of guitarists Maxwell and Tribbett, while Cowboy Way is simply an all-round single-worthy track. Is any of the material all that surprising? Not at all. But in the end, Hellyeah is staying true to itself once again, for better or worse. // 7