Blood for Blood
5/2/2014 - Review by: Eric Compton
I think collectively we have all been waiting for Hellyeah to take itself seriously. Granted the band's first three albums were laced with raucous songs that positioned the group into the top tier of US modern metal, the band as a whole just seemed like a weekend job. 2007's self-title was probably a bit more purposeful than the two follow-ups, 2010's underwhelming "Stampede" and the better "Band of Brothers" from 2012. Heading into the planning and preparation for "Blood for Blood" the four-piece had a better map of where they wanted to be professionally. Singer (and studio lead guitarist) Chad Gray took more of an active role in the songwriting and steered the band away from party anthems and "commercial" visibility. The group also chose producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy, Five Finger Death Punch) and allowed him sole control to record in Las Vegas, a different stance considering drummer Vinnie Paul typically co-produces Hellyeah. It is those large steps that defines "Blood for Blood" as not just another "every other year" record but something that truly stands out as remarkable and invigorating. With this particular sub-genre of hard music the number of bands that fill the space is many. This new album sets the group apart from the pack and creates distance in terms of overall quality.
Assailing opener and lead single "Sangre por Sangre" sets the tone immediately with Gray's spoken word intro erupting into a venomous snarl through "Blood for Blood" gang chants. After the intense fast paced "Demons in the Dirt" and "Soul Killer", both escalated by Gray's abrasive screams, the album slows for "Moth". The track is mostly a mid-tempo power ballad that remains more unfeigned than most of the band's previous slower offerings. This could be accredited to Gray stating to the label that he feels music is therapy and he wants fans to feel catharsis when hearing Hellyeah.
The second half starts with "Cross to Bier (Cradle Of Bones)", "DMF" and "Gift" as three-in-a-row hard hitting affair that closely resembles what the group have displayed for the last seven years. It is that mandatory lubing of the gears that allows this machine so much speed and momentum on record. Maxwell reportedly stated that "Hush" was the group's approach to a more commercially viable song, a more mainstream direction. It certainly has comparisons to an unhurried Sevendust style. "Say When" is an uproar, quite possibly one of the fastest of the band's catalog. From a battery standpoint this is just simply a bruising statement of epic proportions. Interesting that the track bridges the slower "Say When" and the mid-tempo closer "Black December", another effective staple in mature songwriting and delivery.
"Blood to Blood" is an uncompromising album that should prove without a shadow of a doubt that Hellyeah are anything but safe. Brooding, thoroughgoing and thought provoking, this is a monumental breakthrough for the band and its fans and should become a stout nominee for album of the year.
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