By Matt Albers
Supergroups. Every once in a while, one will pop up. From The Travelling Wilburys, to Damn Yankees, to Them Crooked Vultures, to Chickenfoot, no matter what the genre or what band the members originate from, they tend to have one thing in common: novelty. The idea of musicians from different outfits coming together to write and record new material together is almost always captivating, at least for a little while. Most of the time, the project is only temporary and doesn’t take off and maintain itself quite like the members’ original projects that made them famous. Sometimes, however, a supergroup does manage to maintain enough of an interest for whatever reason to maintain success. Such seems to be the case with Hellyeah.
Formed in 2006, Hellyeah consists of Chad Gray of Mudvayne on vocals, Greg Tribbett of Mudvayne on guitar, Tom Maxwell of Nothingface on guitar, Robert “Bob Zilla” Kakaha of Damageplan on bass (who replaced Jerry Montano of Nothingface in 2007), and Vinnie Paul Abbott of the one and only Pantera as well as Damageplan on drums. Their 2007 self-titled debut immediately exhibited the various elements of the band in which each member originally came from. As expected, much of it was over-the-top and perhaps mindless, but was undeniably fun with little fluff for what it was; thrashy, southern metal worthy of turning off your brain and drinking to. Their 2010 sophomore album, Stampede, continued the same vision and direction that began with the first album, but added even more of a southern or country feel to it.
Band Of Brothers is Hellyeah’s third album and their first on new label Eleven Seven Music after departing from Epic Records. After two albums, Hellyeah had already strongly established their sound and appeal, and Band Of Brothers continues their sound well…maybe even TOO well. It’s not as if the musical elements, writing and structure is poor, because there is plenty of catchy groove and impressive musicianship from both guitarists and, unsurprisingly, the percussion from Vinnie Paul. But unfortunately, almost all of the songs sound very similar and really run together. This makes the album hard to dissect and distinguished songs from one another, even after multiple listens. This same fault can be said about the first two Hellyeah albums, but there seemed to be a lot more noticeable variation in the songs, or at least their melodies and structures, than on Band Of Brothers. It was much easier to distinguish songs and pick out your favorites on Hellyeah and especially Stampede with its more southern/country experimentation. Even Band Of Brothers’ predictable ballad “Between You And Nowhere” is sub-par. Though the ballads found on the first two Hellyeah albums were just as cliché as what you’d find from any other band, their catchiness and instrumentation made them stand out and memorable. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for this current release.
Lyrically, it should come as no surprise that the themes and dialogue on Band Of Brothers is less than poetic. Those searching for thematic depth in their music should NOT expect to find it in Hellyeah (if so, you will discover very soon that you should look elsewhere). Mudvayne fans know that Chad Gray is actually a very expressive lyricist for the most part, especially from the albums L.D. 50 (2000) and The End Of All Things To Come (2002); not to say that lyrics from 2005’s Lost And Found onward did not contain occasional deep lyrical themes as well. Some of Gray’s lyrical strength does seep through at times – particularly in the song “WM Free,” about the three young West Memphis, Arkansas men thought to have been wrongfully charged and persecuted for the 1993 deaths of three children due to their association as being heavy metal fans – but mostly his lyrics on Band Of Brothers is that same “turn your brain off and drink” mentality that his content in Hellyeah was always known for.
Thematically, most of the lyrics on every Hellyeah album have just been showcasing the vibe of “fuck you” to any unspecified social foe, be it corporate businessman, pretentious music fan, or just an annoying boss preventing a weekend party. Some songs do have a more direct message though, usually having something to do with good times. Songs like this on Band Of Brothers include the title track (the “looking out for each other” song), “Why Does It Always” (the “sex/relationship” song), and “Drink Drank Drunk” (the…ah, you can probably figure out what this song is about on your own).
As with most supergroups, Hellyeah has never broadcast themselves as a band to take seriously, but rather just one to enjoy. The fact that Hellyeah succeeded and persevered to and through the support of a second album was not only a testament to their fans and appeal, but also to the dedication of the members as well. After the first Hellyeah album, Mudvayne released two studio albums before announcing an indefinite hiatus prior to the release of Stampede. Nothingface hadn’t released an album since 2003’s Skeletons, and it seemed that Vinnie Paul and perhaps Bob Zilla had no other interests or projects other than Hellyeah. So far, Hellyeah has appeared to have outlived the typical supergroup short-lifespan stereotype, at least for now. But while their 2007 self-titled debut started them off strong and Stampede continued and strengthened their appeal even more, Band Of Brothers can honestly be called their weakest album.
This does not mean that Band Of Brothers is a bad album, just nowhere near as interesting or as captivating as the other two in their catalogue. Though the musicianship and lyrics are fun to listen to, the album sounds like one long song with little variation to be found at all. Although fans may be pleased by this release, it’s doubtful they will be surprised or even jumping for joy with the quality of the album. Again, though it could be called boring or cliché for its sound or genre, Band Of Brothers is by no means bad. At best, the album is just OK. But if fairness, the same could be said about the other two Hellyeah albums as well. As said before, fans may appreciate and enjoy Band Of Brothers, but casual listeners will more than likely find it even more mundane than the first two Hellyeah releases.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5 (C)
Recommended If You Like: Texas Hippie Coalition, Black Label Society, Down, Five Finger Death Punch, Godsmack