Sound — 4
The Hollywood Undead is a relatively new band in the grand scheme of things. Theoretically, Hollywood Undead is a mash-up of alternative rock with rap and hip-hop. Their first album was released in 2008 and it sold well as did its follow up, "American Tragedy". This album, their third, is the first since the departure of Hollywood Undead's lead singer, Deuce, in 2010.
First off, let me just say that I have never heard the music of the Hollywood Undead before. Second, I am not a fan of computer created tracks or rap and hip-hop music in general because of this. When I looked up the instruments played by each band member, two of them were listed as their instrument being "screaming" while another was in charge of keyboards, synthesizers, and PROGRAMMING. Along with this, the band only began using a bass player in 2011, not a crime, but you can see where this is going. So, some might say I am biased. I will try to be unbiased, though as a guitarist, especially on this website, I hope you see where I'm coming from.
As to the review, the album starts out with "Dead Bite", a semi-interesting starter that attempts to blend rock and rap melodies. The rapping here makes sense and a sense of rock breaks through, so I don't immediately dislike the album after this song. Heavy guitar is there, just playing power chords, but it's still somewhat interesting.
The second song, "From The Ground", is where the sh** hits the fan. It starts with a kindred piano part, almost poppy. Without warning, the song turns into thrash metal, and then just as quickly changes into a synth powered verse and back again. The refrain after the chorus is soft, back to a mainstream feel. But, then it breaks back into thrash and the cycle continues over again. There's innovative and then there's this attempt. This song is all over the place.
"Another Way Out" starts with a techno-like beat and then turns into the hip-hop/rap/mainstream/dance music that I spend my whole day trying to avoid on the radio. For that type of crowd, this might seem fairly fun and entertaining. But, for me and for many of the users on UG, it decidedly isn't.
"Lion" begins with the same type of piano part as "From The Ground". To the contrary of that song, there is a nice transition into an average alternative rock rhythm that continues on without rapping and would actually please me if there was a little more of it on the album.
There's the variety of the songs I mentioned above and then there's stuff like "Pigskin" which is solely rap and hip-hop with hardly any guitar parts. This song is the type of stuff that has already saturated the market and is probably not meant for an audience like us. If you're honestly looking for music like this, turn to the professionals of this genre or the many rap artists mentioned in puns in UG comment sections. Many of the songs on the album feature prominent sections like those featured in this song, usually preceded by the same type of piano into from "From The Ground", sometimes with a guitar instead of a piano.
The only exceptions are "Dead Bite" and "Kill Everyone", my favorite song from the album. It is actually far less metal-core than the certain parts from "From The Ground" and is based more fully on the alternative rock sound that creeps around this album. The hip-hop influences are still visible, but they mesh well with the guitars and the transition to the chorus is great. I don't know why, but I like the drums on this song the best because, like the hip-hop parts, it meshes extremely well.
Production wise, this album is strong, one of the only strong parts of it. The producer is able to balance this smorgasbord (in a negative way) of material and give it some taste that can apply to all listeners.
Lyrics — 5
While I don't necessarily enjoy the rap and hip-hop vocal presentation, I can't quite fault them for it. They did manage to get a vocal slot for every member of the group at one point or another and the raps themselves didn't seem any worse than the regular mainstream stuff I hear. One place where the Hollywood Undead did excel was the overdubbing of the vocals, though I can't tell if they're auto tuned or not. Odds are they aren't. The harmonies worked fairly well and the effects used on the vocals, while I detest them in principle, do fit the music well. Still, the vocal performance is average at best.
Again, it's probably not meant for an audience like us, though while I'm reviewing it, I will reiterate that the users of this website will have heard it before at best and hate it with a growing passion at worst.
Lyrically, the album is average, the lyrics aren't incredibly simple or I'll fitted, but they certainly aren't excellent. Here are some examples:
- "Kill Everyone" - "Somebody's dyin', so come say goodbye, kids. Don't even try to take this weapon from me. I like you more and more the less that you breathe. I've come undone, I think I'll kill everyone. My, what have I done? Fu** you, let's kill everyone. I've come undone, I think I'll kill everyone. My, what have I done? Fu** you, let's kill everyone."
- "Dead Bite" - "What would you do if I told you I hate you? What would you do if your life's on the line? What would you say if I told you I hate you? I've got something that'll blow your mind, mind."
- "Lion" - "Here's a story of everything we'll ever be. You can hide but some of us can never leave. And if you go I don't need those little things. They remind me of all our little dreams. Can you hear the words? All I can say. We can watch the world, even if they walk away. Forget about tomorrow, tomorrow is today. You were born a lion and a lion you will stay."
Overall Impression — 3
Overall, "Notes From The Underground" is less of a fusion of genres, but more of a take different genres and put them in the same song/album attitude. Each song is a total hit or miss affair depending on your musical sensibilities. Certain songs are total rap and hip-hop like "Rain" and "Pigskin" while others are more rock oriented like "Dead Bite" and "Kill Everyone" and others are just a total crapshoot, combining genres with no oversight or transitions, like "From The Ground". While a select few may find this style groundbreaking and a breath of fresh air, I think that is all bubkiss.
Again, maybe to a different audience, the result would be different, but for the gigging rock guitarists that I and many of us are, I just don't see it. This album isn't all bad. It has its highlights in "Dead Bite", "Kill Everyone", and overall production quality, but in total, "Notes From The Underground" is a folly attempt, in my opinion, not just in style, but also in taste and feel.
Still, I encourage the casual listener to; try a few songs to see if this is your style though it certainly wasn't mine.