Sound — 5
Spawning around the time nu-metal was beginning to snowball, Papa Roach struck gold (or rather, triple platinum) early into their career with their sophomore album, "Infest," best known for having the ubiquitous nu-metal anthem, "Last Resort." As that album would ascend their career into the stratosphere, Papa Roach would shift into a more poppy, hard rock sound, much to the chagrin of those that were obsessed with the band's more callous style on "Infest" (though it was ultimately a good bet to get off the nu-metal boat, seeing as it would sink in the end). Despite that group of people decrying Papa Roach for "going soft," Papa Roach would make that transition with flying colors, with their following albums, "Getting Away With Murder" and "The Paramour Sessions," going platinum as well.
Recent years have shown Papa Roach tinkering with their sound again, but similarly to their switch from nu-metal to alt-metal a decade ago, the change in sound is in the interest of staying with the trends. As "The Connection" showed the band diving head-first into the EDM/metal fusion style that's been all the rage for the past few years, Papa Roach's eighth album, "F.E.A.R.," is them taming that style - so don't worry about having to endure more awkward dubstep breakdowns or off-kilter synth-lines dating back thirty years.
With that being said, the majority of the album follows the "right" formula of electronica-charged pop-metal: synths backup meager guitar riffs (see "Face Everything and Rise," "Never Have to Say Goodbye" and "Warriors"), production harps heavily on filtered intros/breaks/outros, and frontman Jacoby Shaddix's vocals are subject to more stuttering effects; the same kind that you'll find in every other metalcore album these days.
On a couple of occasions, however, Papa Roach act on the desire to dip back into the old days of rap-infused metal. Shaddix gets his rap on in "Gravity," but instead of sounding like a long-lost track from "Infest," he sounds like he's trying on his best Mike Shinoda impression, before getting back into his regular singing voice to duet with guest vocalist Maria Brink of In This Moment. And they pull a move one would expect Fall Out Boy to do by getting guest rapper Royce Da 5'9" to deliver a short, unexpected, and ultimately forgettable verse on "Warriors."
But while the styles and melodies on here are par-at-best, it does help direct one's attention to the pretty good rhythm elements. Bassist Tobin Esperance provides some standout basslines in "Skeletons," "Gravity," and "Devil," and drummer Tony Palermo stays active and interesting in "Never Have to Say Goodbye" and "War Over Me," and while perhaps they can't be a total saving grace for the album, there's at least something to take solace in.
Lyrics — 6
The two biggest themes one will find in Shaddix's lyrics are troubled relationships and trouble with his own afflictions - both subjects stemming from his turbulent past. While "F.E.A.R." does include a few songs about the former (the toxic relationship story of "Broken as Me" ends up feeling like an echo of "The Connection" song "Not That Beautiful"), the album is mainly centered on the latter topic of Shaddix's self-imposed struggles, framed with the intention of redemption. Drawing a solid line between victory and defeat, Shaddix gets pretty grandiose in his expressions, from painting apocalyptic imagery in "Face Everything and Rise" to banking on war symbolism in "War on Me" and "Warriors." He even gets biblical in some cases, with numerous references of fire and sin, and he even plays the whole "the devil is inside me" card in "Devil."
With all of the hardships Shaddix reveals (even explicitly mentioning his addiction to pills in "Never Have to Say Goodbye"), his overall message is the undying possibility to overcome such obstacles, making for a more positive album in Papa Roach's catalog. And though Shaddix's choices in lyrics for getting those messages across are a tad blunt and clichéd, he gets those messages across nonetheless.
Overall Impression — 5
As "The Connection" showed Papa Roach awkwardly shifting their sound into the next form of modern metal, it makes sense why "F.E.A.R." would be less apt to take risks musically. But while "F.E.A.R." does show the band finding their footing in this new sound of theirs, their eagerness to conform to an updated formula of pop-metal renders the album a meek listen. Though Papa Roach sound different here compared to six years ago, they aren't thinking outside the box - they're just thinking inside a different one.