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Album review: Hellyeah - Unden!able

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★★☆☆☆

Groove metal is one of heavy music’s most powerful sub-genres.

From Pantera to Machine Head to Lamb of God, its bands have been associated with aggressive vocals, mid-paced rhythms and deep riffs perfectly engineered for head-banging.

And with their brand new record – the emphatically titled UNDEN!ABLE – American supergroup Hellyeah is another name that clearly fits the bill.

After opening with the instrumental build-up ‘!’, the album pounds into existence with ‘X’. The track is driven by the primal and visceral drumming of Pantera alumnus Vinnie Paul and the pitched growls of Mudvayne’s Chad Grey, both serving to craft a violent pace throughout the song.

The involvement of guitar and bass feels minimalistic to say the very least, with the stringed instruments mimicking Paul’s drumbeats to the point where they add very little to the experience of ‘X’.

Normally, this review would go on to provide a track-by-track description of UNDEN!ABLE, but the record adheres so strongly to the previously described groove metal formula that – with only some exceptions – if you’ve heard one song, you’ve heard them all.

A handful of songs place a greater emphasis on guitarwork than ‘X’ – such as ‘Blood Plague’ and ‘Scratch a Lie’ – while there are two power ballads: ‘Leap of Faith’ and ‘Love Falls’. But aside from this, there is no deviation between songs, soon making the record repetitive.

But a strict following of the same skeletal structure can be forgiven if each song manages to achieve its own unique tone or feel within its set parameters. But again, this is something that does not occur. There is an absence of memorable riffs, lyrics or instrumental sections; nothing sticks out or stuns the listener.

‘Leap of Faith’ and ‘Love Falls’ – UNDEN!ABLE’s two songs that deviate from standard groove metal – are the only exceptions, mostly due to their slight alterations in vocal style, provision of melody and change in pace. If the record focused more on these elements in its song-writing and fluctuated or experimented with them further, it would truly be an enjoyable release.

Hellyeah’s refusal to expand upon melody and changing vocals and pace makes UNDEN!ABLE feel old-fashioned, behind the times and self-restrictive, especially during an era in which bands like Gojira and Machine Head incorporate groove metal elements into progressive and surprising music.

In the end, who can this album be recommended to? Hellyeah’s hardcore fanbase will most likely be satiated by UNDEN!ABLE, but at the same time this is not a suitable introduction to the band for newcomers.

If you’re looking for simple, primal, aggressive groove metal, go and check out Lamb of God or Vinnie Paul’s earlier work in Pantera. If you want a band that stretches the definitions of what groove metal can be, listen to Machine Head.

Until Hellyeah find a way to expand upon their own sound, those are the best options available to you.

UNDEN!ABLE will be available physically and digitally on 3rd June via Eleven Seven Music.




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