Sound — 4
If you see the glass half-full, Hollywood Undead are enigmatic with their sound; if you see the glass half-empty, Hollywood Undead are too flighty and inconsistent with the direction of their music. Their debut album, "Swan Songs," was mostly concerned with emulating hip-hop - chock full of string-addled beats and pastiches of Dr. Dre and Eminem - but a jarring and unsubstantial shoehorn of metal instruments *technically* placed the band in the category of rap rock and the "crunkcore" trend at the time. A proper balance of the rap and rock elements in their music would be struck in their second album, "American Tragedy," and then they would appeal more to the metal energy in their third album, "Notes From the Underground." And even though the contrasting, if not totally conflicting, sentiment of songs were still evident in these albums (going from uncouth party rap to emotional rap), there was still a fair amount of much-needed cohesiveness to Hollywood Undead's music established.
Perhaps that setting into a balance was too complacent for the band's taste, though, because with their fourth album, "Day of the Dead," Hollywood Undead make a big effort to shake up their sound. While one foot of theirs is still planted in the metal-centric world as previously heard in "Notes From the Underground," their other foot has stepped into electronica territory, which manifests in several different ways. The most polarizing of which (and the biggest flops, coincidentally or not) are their stark attempts at EDM: "War Child" stitches some meager metal guitars onto a Pitbull-esque club song, and the similarly dancefloor-oriented track "Party by Myself" emulates progressive house in the chord patterns and progression, and the pitch-bending melodies and buildups strongly mirror the style of Afrojack. But even outside of their uncanny unoriginality, they simply stick out on the album like sore thumbs.
Hollywood Undead also try augmenting dubstep into their rap metal, and it's much more fitting. The blends found in "Usual Suspects" and "Does Everybody in the World Have to Die" thrive quite well on the album, and show a more industrial metal side to Hollywood Undead. The industrial inflection also sprouts up in "Day of the Dead" and "Live Forever," sprucing up the rap metal tracks nicely, but the industrial metal cut "Disease" shamelessly derives from Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People," from the swingy muted guitar strums and the loud distorted hits to the chanting of "hey" in the bridge.
In contrast to the dark feel of most of these rap metal songs, Hollywood Undead counterweight them with the positive pop-metal cuts "Take Me Home," "Gravity," and "Save Me," and despite them not at all being black sheep status for the band, they protrude just as unnaturally as the EDM-oriented tracks on the album. "Take Me Home" is an all-singy and thinly-veneered attempt for a crowd-rousing anthem, "Save Me" accepts a similar, grandiose polish job to be made specifically for the arena, and "Gravity" tries to wield pop metal, new wave, and a dubstep/trap drop all together, but winds up as a mess.
Lyrics — 5
At this point, Hollywood Undead have boiled their lyrical matter down to a science, and with all the usual topics being recycled and compartmentalized throughout the album, not a whole lot new or distinct is found in "Day of the Dead." "Usual Suspects" and "How We Roll" are the designated songs for the band to rap about their love for their hometown and just another day in their life of drinking and general debauchery, and "War Child" is the designated song to detail yet another raucous, sex-addled night at the club - narratives heard plenty of times from the group before. "Party by Myself," however, makes a curious change-up in things, being a song literally about partying by yourself - while each rapper aggrandizes the things they do like in any party rap song, the ultimate fact that this is being done alone holds an interesting spectacle to the reality that all of this extrinsic pleasure - whether by aesthetic or chemical substance - is ultimately hollow and meaningless. Who'd have figured to get such philosophical potential from a seemingly-shallow Hollywood Undead song?
Hollywood Undead are also consistent when it comes to writing uplifting, personal and spiritual songs, despite that subject clashing pretty hard with the aforementioned "drugs, alcohol & hos" rap they also write. "Dark Places" reveals the band's feelings of growing further in the music scene (although the trope of violence that echoes throughout most of the song renders things overblown), "Gravity" has the band reminiscing on the simpler times before being successful (Charlie Scene even calls back to his Ford Fiesta that he mentioned in the "Swan Songs" track "Everywhere I Go"), and "Live Forever" stresses the case for living in the now and appreciating each moment. Though it's the most substantial to see Hollywood Undead sharing genuine sentiments, it doesn't necessarily balance out the many other cases in which they're writing in shallow gimmicks.
Overall Impression — 5
With all the different style featured, "Day of the Dead" is the most varied album Hollywood Undead have made thus far, but in similar nature to "Swan Songs," it also ends up being the most disjointed. To further the comparison with "Swan Songs," much of the sonic experimentation Hollywood Undead try on this album is quite derived in its influences, making those new directions not very daring in the grand scheme of things. Though the rap metal recipe of theirs has shown some refinement via the addition of industrial characteristics, much of the album is left cluttered with a hodgepodge of sounds trying to go different ways, leaving Hollywood Undead, once again, sounding indecisive in their musical direction.