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Friday, July 27, 2012

Album Review: Hellyeah – Band Of Brothers

The Texan supergroup, Hellyeah, have been around for several years so we’re probably all up to speed by now with who they are and where they come from, so for the uninitated, I’ll be brief. They consist of members from Mudvayne, Nothingface, Damageplan and Pantera and when I spied them first on stage at Download 2007 I loved every second of their high-intensity, groove-laden set. With cowboy hats, long leather coats and bandanas everywhere it set me in mind of a hard rock-backed Western movie and I found myself glued to the incredible stickwork of Vinnie Paul for most of the time they pistoned around the stage. They had, at times, an almost laconic, bluesy roll to their music, so when their latest opus Band Of Brothers landed on my desk I was taken aback by just how monstrously aggressive it was. It’s shedloads heavier than previous efforts with a real volatile kick to it.

The title alone hints at just how important the project has become to them and a clear willingness to reveal those close bonds they have formed over time. The component parts, from Chad Gray’s raucous howl through Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell’s crushing chugs and howling riffs, to the thundering bottom end of Bob Zilla’s bass and Vinnie Paul’s incredible percussive skills, all come together in a marriage of awe-inspiring assuredness in their ability to raise that collective flag into position time after time. Their impressive focus refuses to let them wander too far from their original design though, so the decision to “metal up” their sound is about as far as we will probably ever see them pushing the boat out.

Laying down the first marker, “War In Me” speed-chugs its way into oblivion with a dark fury, ingesting a solid beatdown and a fist-pumping anthemic quality, whilst for “Call It Like I See It” they slam down a foot on the accelerator and wind down the window to gob vitriol at passers-by. The vocals play just as big a role as the effortless selection of paced groove by rising from the spoken passage to a scouring yelp that scythes down all before it. Most menacing of all, “WM Free” (a reference to the metal-loving / “devil-worshipping” West Memphis Three, imprisoned for murder after a coerced, error-filled confession had been extracted) is a suitably hate-filled crush of a track that, musically, seems focussed on the exact point where Chimaira hits Lamb Of God.

Taking things down a notch the title-track sucks at the Pantera teat to swaggeringly ram its point home – “I got your back and you got mine, as long as we stand together, we’ll be fine” – and “Bigger God” lightens the rhythm, rocking itself up in the verses only to unload in the chorus. Oh, and they’ve still got time for a ballad – “Between You And Nowhere” submerges itself only to reappear at a point somewhere between Alice In Chains and Seether.

Never being ones to upset the applecart, they’ve always had a tendency to become a little predictable and there is an over-reliance on f-bomb fullstops and their rather obvious choices of subject matter. That’s the whole point of their bloody single-mindedness at sticking to their guns though, isn’t it? The alcohol-abusing, rabble-rousing “Drink Drank Drunk” is far less interesting than the introspective musings of “Dig Myself A Hole”, but it’s obvious which one you’re gonna be yelling along and fist-pumping to at their shows. Hellyeah are a riot and the colossal power within Band Of Brothers kicks your arse and hands it back to you on a bin-lid. They clearly have no intentions on slowing their roll at this time and I, for one, am right there with them riding the wave.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/07/hellyeah-band-of-brothers-eleven-seven-music/
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