Hellyeah: Band of Brothers – Music Review
By Eric Stuckart
While Hellyeah is still not quite there yet, this is much closer to what I’ve been envisioning for the band for years now. Two years ago, Hellyeah’s sophomore release, Stampede, hit my ears and left me feeling cold. Considering the band’s pedigree, including members of Pantera, Mudvayne, Nothingface — three bands that comprised a great chunk of my daily listening during my teenage years — not to mention Damageplan, it felt like the band was yet to really hit its stride. And I feel like Band of Brothers is finally showing the band starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t from a songwriting standpoint. It took two albums for them to do that, but who’s really keeping score here?
My biggest problem with Hellyeah’s last two albums was that they seemed like they were trying too hard to live up to the band’s name, which brings a much more southern vibe to mind than that of a hard-hitting supergroup formed from members of metal bands that were at their biggest at the turn of the millennium. Perhaps it’s my own selfishness, but when I first heard that former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul was teaming up with half of Mudvayne, all I wanted to hear was songs that sounded like Pantera with Mudvayne’s Chad Gray going apeshit all over it, and after patiently waiting nearly half a decade, they’ve finally done it — to a point.
Maybe the band leaving the safety net of a major label has a little bit to do with them being more willing to let loose this time around, because even songs like “Drink, Drank, Drunk” sound more like anthems to start a riot in the pit rather than the weaksauce outlaw odes that the last two albums offered up, and they had a lot of them.
It’s funny, because before actually hearing this album, I had all but written the group off as another “shoulda, woulda, coulda” supergroup that failed to live up to the expectations; a band that didn’t equal the sum of its parts. But Band of Brothers finds Hellyeah focusing on the many different influences that the individual members have brought to the project for the best. From the more chaotic Mudvayne touches of “Bigger God” to the more pensive, almost balladic flourishes that Nothingface’s later albums had found in the mellower “Between You and Nowhere,” the music actually feels like the sum of its parts. Combine that with a production style that really brings to mind Pantera’s style (a crisp, clear sound comes from Vinnie’s drumkit throughout, plenty of fadeouts at the end of songs — a Pantera staple), and you’ve got a rather solid album from start to finish.
I don’t know if my lacking expectations have slightly tainted my opinion of Band of Brothers for the best or not. The band is still sorely lacking in the lyrics department, and their whole general image — the band name, the cowboy hats, and the machismo — is still kind of off-putting. But I’m really liking the musical direction that the band have taken this time around. I always felt like they were playing it too safe with their last two albums, trying to hard to cater to an approach that made sense given their name but didn’t really add up given the creative output that each of the members have been responsible over the years. The whole outlaw sound only works to a certain extent, and if the band doesn’t really sound convincing as outlaws, especially when their own respective bands played it much looser and more dangerously, then what’s the point?
Ultimately, it’s unlikely that Hellyeah’s music will ever outshine anything that Pantera laid to tape, but this is the closest that we’ll ever get to the level of ferocity and intensity that the Texans had achieved back in their heyday, and that’s something that drummer Vinnie Paul can be proud of, I’m sure. Unless, of course, the band miraculously puts their past behind them and finds a suitable guitarist to fill the bigger than Texas shoes that late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrel left behind. But, with Band of Brothers I get the impression that Hellyeah is consciously trying to remind listeners us why they’re even here in the first place, and you’ve got to give credit where it’s due.
Front page image/interior photo from facebook.com/hellyeahband.