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Vinnie Paul has been hell bent on destroying what little shreds of credibility he’s had left over from the previous decade, as can be assessed by that disastrous failure that he put together with his now late brother known as Damageplan. Nevertheless, I’m not one to jump completely on the bandwagon with others who’ve been trashing his projects since Pantera’s demise, as I can’t qualify said project completely as nu-metal the way others I‘ve spoken with have. Sure, said genre is heavily influenced by groove metal and the two often intersect with each other at key points, but I’m not quite ready to go along with the assertion that Hellyeah is completely out of the realm of metal’s established paradigm the way bands like Biohazard and Breaking Benjamin are, though it does manage to grate on the balls of any true metal loving freak just as badly.
“Hellyeah” is musically the logical outgrowth of what Damageplan was, which is a continuing deterioration of Pantera’s established sound since 1992. Though the absence of Dimebag here eliminates what little lead playing majesty could be attributed to the former and replaces it with what sounds like a 2nd year guitar student jamming on a blues scale, the general riff usage here is perfectly in line with the 2 or 3 note groove riffs and single chord slams on full display 3 years prior to this. Chad Gray and Patrick Lachman are not really all that distinct from each other vocally, though the latter does have a respectable background as a guitarist in a handful of reputable metal acts. It is all basic, run-of-the-mill Layne Staley worship, meshed with Phil Anselmo’s pseudo-manly shouting style ala “Vulgar Display Of Power”, ergo what you heard out of most groove metal and mallcore bands back in the mid-90s and still hear out of current nu-metal bands that incorporate elements of both styles.
Having said all of that, in spite of qualifying as metal in a loose sense, there are some areas where this gets dragged down below the level of even non-Metal poseurs like Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch. The most blatant example is the sheer lack of intelligence displayed anywhere on this album lyrically. Pretentious vulgarity ad nauseum is usually something reserved for early 90s Gangsta types and their current “I wish I wasn’t white” equivalents, but here even the original king of white boy rapping meets trailer trash glorification Kid Rock looks intelligent by comparison. It’s all hell yeah, we don’t give a shit, don’t give a fuck, so you fucking fuckers with your fucking jobs and your fucking clean shaved fucking faces can fucking can go to hell, and whatever other profane fucking references to whatever straw man fucking images of their fucking detractors these groovy, tattoo toting fuckers could pull out of their fucking asses over the weekend that this album was probably fucking written on.
The songwriting on here isn’t terribly creative, even when considering the style that this is in and adjusting one’s standards accordingly. “Waging War” is probably the closest thing to a tolerable song, minus Gray’s insisting on vomiting into the microphone, and really only succeeds in being yet another in a longstanding line of fast half-thrash “Fucking Hostile” clones. “You Wouldn’t Know” is pure grunge that can’t really figure out if it wants to emulate 90s Anthrax or Nickelback. “In The Mood” sounds almost like the first minute of “Rooster” with some really boring, 2nd year guitar student blues soloing thrown over it. “Rotten To The Core” ventures out of groove metal territory on one or two riffs and reaches for Papa Roach territory. And if all of this isn’t enough to turn you off to this album, “Alcohaulin’ Ass” takes an already bad acoustic ballad approach normally reserved to Stained and successfully stereotypes American Southern culture so badly that even a Texas-hating New Yorker might be possessed to condemn it on said grounds.
Many have rightly pointed to this as being a really obvious cash out on the current popularity of Mudvayne by Paul, who wrongly thought that he could also straddle such a huge divide and still rope in old fans of early 90s Pantera. Suffice to say, he succeeded in the first goal as this sold pretty heavily and secured a high position in the Top 40. But predictably, the backlash towards this in the metal community has been fairly consistent, though at times hypocritical as many of these people still defend Damageplan musically. Sure, it’s metal, but Hellyeah should still be condemned as a really poor version of it and ought not sell well amongst any who put riffs and songwriting ahead of appealing the masses of asses at large in mainstream pop culture.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 8, 2010.