February 10, 2020 Hollywood Undead – New Empire, Vol. 1 (Album Review)
By their own admissions, Los Angeles, California’s Hollywood Undead is a polarizing band. Attacking listeners’ ears with intense lyrics and a balance of Heavy Rock and Hip Hop, in truth, their flavor is not for everyone. This factor matched with the sad reality that many make assumptions, often many of which are inaccurate, about the band’s image and music, Hollywood Undead are often unfairly discounted. Not at all phased by any notions the haters like to throw out there, the band has kept moving forward for 15 years now and are set to return with what could be their biggest statement yet in the form of New Empire, Vol. 1.
Due out on Valentine’s Day 2020, February 14th via BMG, it marks the band’s sixth overall studio album and their first since 2017’s Five. Still made up of a strong core consisting of J-Dog (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, programming), Funny Man (vocals), Johnny 3 Tears (vocals, bass), Charlie Scene (vocals, guitars) and Danny (vocals, guitars, keyboards), they have opted to reinvent themselves a little this time around.
So what is different? For one, on this album they decided to centralize the recording around one producer. A bit of a change, in the past they usually had various producers working on several tracks for each album. Additionally, they have decided to switch up the writing process a bit and also give the masks a rest. But don’t worry: the masks are not gone forever, they just need some time to find a fresh way to incorporate them into who they are.
These factors all in mind, they come at you with nine new songs with the main difference being the overall vibe of the lyrics. In the past the band’s lyrics have always been pretty aggressive, and they are actually no less so this go around. However, they are a little more uplifting – prime examples are the overcoming sensations of “Heart of a Champion” and triumphant lead single “Already Dead.” Then there are other good-feeling songs like “Killin It” and the introspective vibed “Second Chances” featuring Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden.
That said, the guys do not soften up at all with the assault of songs like “Empire,” “Enemy,” and fantastically powerful closer “Nightmares,” where the words are so personal you can feel them bleed through the speakers. Giving you a taste of what this new album is all about, in the end it is catchy, thriving and everything fans have come to love about Hollywood Undead. Some might argue this album is their hardest Rock-driven piece of work to date, but it works really well. After all, as the band fuses genres, it widens the range of potential listener. Dare we say this album may in fact bring in new listeners who may have never thought to have something in common with the undead.
All in all it is very difficult to pick one or two tracks as standouts here, so let’s leave it up to the fans to explore the album song by song. Each song is telling a story with arrangements uniting elements of Hip Hop and Rock to create a prefect unison that is highly addictive. Until the release of Vol. 2, Cryptic Rock gives New Empire, Vol. 1. 5 out of 5 stars.