Sound — 8
"Notes From The Underground" marks the third studio album from Rap Rock group Hollywood Undead and is the SECOND album since the departure of front-man Deuce. According to the group the recording process of this album would be different from their previous offering, "American Tragedy", with band member Charlie Scene stating: "I would say that this time the label gave us full creative control. I think it's going to be more like 'Swan Songs' than 'American Tragedy'. It'll be a mixture of both; I mean, we all grow as artists, we get older, and we've been doing it a long time so I think it'll be more like 'Swan Songs' and I think the fans are gonna like it a lot. The songs that have been released indicate a style of Hollywood Undead less similar to the harder rock sound of 'American Tragedy', and more similar to the rapping sound of 'Swan Songs'." This statement immediately set off alarm bells in my head. Songs like "Glory", "Been To Hell" and "Sell Your Soul" (among others) have proved that the band is capable of producing decent alternative/nu metal songs with emotionally charged lyrics that relate to today's youth and yet the band seems intent on releasing frivolous "dance" songs with vacuous, shallow (and sometimes even borderline misogynistic) lyrics. It seems however that for the most part my trepidation was unfounded. Luckily this album offers a pleasant surprise with "We Are" and "Lion" exhibiting a more mature sound with powerful nu-metal style. As with their previous offerings HU manage to achieve this invigorating, infectious energy in the majority of their songs. Prime examples would be "Kill Everyone" and "Dead Beat". While neither song offers groundbreaking lyrics they offer aggressive verses (with heavy funk emphasis in "Kill Everyone") and excellent rap flow, particularly from Scene. Another, more intriguing example would be "Another Way Out". Although it remains somewhat out of place on a nu-metal album with it's heavily dance influenced sound it has an infectious energy and I could help but finding myself moving along with the beat. "From The Ground" offers one hell of a roller-coaster ride to the listener; with the verse delivering clean, soulful lyrics from Danny and the chorus launching into heavy, metalcore style guitar and drums with screaming vocals from Scene and J-Dog. This song also showcases the vocal interplay of the members which remains a strong point of the group, particularly with Danny providing clean vocals and J3T, J-Dog and Charlie Scene providing rap with great flow.
Lyrics — 6
While metal fans would be able to appreciate the energy of the songs and the album as a whole the lyrics of many of the songs are likely to alienate them. As with the band's previous albums the lyrics are what stand out as HU's largest pitfall. Many of the songs comprise of two contrasting and non-complementary musical styles. On the one hand the instrumental aspects of the music are solid nu-metal and alternative metal; comprising heavy guitar riffs and whereas the lyrical aspects of the music are heavily and hip-hop (and sometimes even gangster rap) related; with the song "Up In Smoke" having lines such as: "So everybody get down like you just got out of rehab. I'm so high I'm so high Oh no the bottle's low And I can't feel my face no mo Oh no we up in smoke And I can't feel my face no mo." Sitting firmly in the middle of the spectrum of lyrical value are the songs as "Dead Bite", "Kill Everyone" and "Another Way Out" which are neither groundbreaking nor devoid of any lyrical value but rather leave the listener feeling rather underwhelmed. "Dead Bite" and "Kill Everyone" speak of seemingly needless violence and malevolence without any kind of context under which these acts should be performed. On the other the lyrics of "Another Way Out" can simply be described a frivolous (although completely "inoffensive") dance music although they are still likely to leave metal fans unimpressed. This is not to say however that this album is devoid of lyrical value. "We Are" particularly showcases the full potential of the band to provide the "angsty" but mature lyrics with more than just face value; showing empathy for today's youth. "Believe" and "Lion" show a more introspective side of the band; with Danny providing clean vocals to the surprisingly emotionally charged lyrics with a more melancholy tone. I applauded "Rain" and "Outside" with their surprisingly darker lyrics which is a refreshing new direction for the band to try and take and remain surprisingly thought provoking. Overall however this album has more lyrical value than not but still remains the bands weakest point. Hopefully songs like "We Are" are indicative of the future direction of the band rather than "Up In Smoke".
Overall Impression — 7
Time and time again Hollywood Undead have exhibited their potential to create powerful, lyrically emotional anthems such as "We Are" and "Lion" which remain the groups saving grace from the artistic voids that are "Up In Smoke" and "Pigskin". As such I anticipate the bands next offering in the hopes that they opt to take a more mature root in their songs and prune the more vacuous "dance" side of their music. In the end I would venture to say that this is HU's best album to date as overall the "good" of the album is enough to mostly over-shadow the "bad" elements of the album and I certainly recommend it to any nu-metal and alternative metal fans out there.