HELLYEAH – ‘Welcome Home’

By Louis Kerry

There are some scenarios in life wherein decisions need to be made that you wouldn’t wish upon any band – yet this was what southern metal supergroup HELLYEAH were faced with. Last year, founding member and drummer Vinnie Paul tragically passed away and, following these unexpected circumstances, the rest of the band had the serious choice of whether to continue or not. With Paul’s drum takes already recorded, HELLYEAH decided to fight the good fight and carry on with the release of their sixth album ‘Welcome Home’. A record full of face-crushing riffs, huge choruses, and Paul’s one of a kind spirit hallmarked throughout.

Former Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray doesn’t shy away from his past schizophrenic vocal style. In album opener ‘333’, you hear him go at it at a million miles an hour one moment and then mellow out like a soft spoken country boy the next on whiskey sipping ballad ‘Skyy and Water’. Yet it’s clear HELLYEAH sound their finest when they are at their most aggressive.

The title track ups the intensity with a fist-pumping chorus. ‘Black Flag Army’ is the most brutal track, featuring some of Gray’s most sadistic sounding vocals and a sharp riff that will make the toughest of necks snap after three minutes of headbang worthy, undiluted metal.

Acclaimed heavy metal producer Kevin Churko ensures that ‘Welcome Home’ shines in all the right places. The unique guitar parts hit you as a constant surprise throughout the album, as guitarists Christian Brady and Tom Maxwell blast solos from out of nowhere, consistently keeping each song sounding fresh and with surprising twists.

Most of the songs have the same relentless attack that made Pantera one of the all time greatest metal bands, and Vinnie Paul’s drumming consistently drives each song forward. The backbone of the album, each breakdown and double bass drumbeat creates an impact and adds depth in his own trademark style that nobody will ever match.

Despite a fitting tribute at the finale, there is a disappointing lack of feeling throughout the album. Especially after the events that occurred (perhaps due to mostly being written and recorded before what happened). Most tracks have their signature angry tone, but there’s no sense of reason behind it and, if there is to be another album, hopefully it fills the emotional void that you’re left with after finishing ‘Welcome Home’.

Unfortunately in most aspects, apart from the sheer brutality of the album, ‘Welcome Home’ falls short. ‘I’m The One’ fails to impress with weak melodic vocals and a plodding bass line. Lyrically uninspired, musically forgettable in places, but mostly saved by one of the greatest drummers in metal.

HELLYEAH’s southern metal, BBQ and beer attitude has certainly been fine tuned, as ‘Welcome Home’ sounds less like a gimmick compared to their earlier releases, while still carrying the spirit Vinnie Paul would have wanted. Despite being a fun album, ‘Welcome Home’ harms itself by lacking substance or further ideological structure, meaning HELLYEAH are no closer to being a memorable metal band of this generation.

LOUIS KERRY

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