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The fact that a second Hellyeah album has manifested itself is proof that either there is a divine entity who fucking hates us all, that we are merely the receptacles of a several-tiered, torturous joke at the behest of one Vinnie Paul, or that major label record executives in the United States are batshit bonkers. Okay, we know that the last one is true regardless, but the jury is out on the others. But let's give Hellyeah some credit this time: they at least shelled out a few dollars to some hack for a stampede of bulls on the cover, instead of another boorish photo session that the members could stroke themselves to as they must, staring in the mirror each evening before a gig in front of whatever LCD audience actually gives them the time of day.
I'm going to give Hellyeah a little more credit than even this, because while Stampede sucks at the donkey trough almost as much as its predecessor, its clearly better in almost every means imaginable. The production is just as clean and professional as one would expect from this seasoned crew inhabiting the nu-metal pantheon, and Chad's vocals are a little better, as he seems to be channeling Bay Area thrash gods James Hetfield and Chuck Billy on half of the tracks. The lyrics, while still dumb as a stump, do more to convey that feeling of God fearing, fire breathing Texas motherfucker aggression that any of us with a taste for fun would truly expect from a band of this sort. For example:
'Ya see I sold my soul at the cross in the road,
Somewhere down in Texas where the devil had spoke,
Said boy you wanna be somebody sign on the line,
I said I gotta raise some hell so I ain't got the time'
Fair enough, my good men, fair enough. I can get behind this. It spits fumes. It spits gasoline. It's not tactful, and it's not poetic, but it's honest and makes me want to fight someone, somewhere, at some point in time, and that is exactly what I want out of a band with Vinnie Paul behind the sticks and a herd of bulls trampling the dust on the cover. You can draw a little blood to this first song, "Cowboy Way", which seems like a Pantera dingleberry hanging on from the Great Southern Trendkill days, with the mildly more thrashin' vocal delivery. Sure, the tuning of the guitars and relative, plugging simplicity of the riff patterns feel rudimentary at best, but I didn't immediately question if the world was one big Candid Camera episode starring myself as I did listening through the previous album.
Instead of surging to some rock hook track like they did on the debut, the band continues to barrel forth through a hostile number "The Debt That All Men Pay". They save the rock track for third, "Hell of a Time", but at least it seems to have some more attitude. "Stampede" reminds me a lot of the song "Hellyeah" from the s/t...perhaps the band has some twisted plan to record one shitty thrash-gone-nugroove title track each time they hit the studio. Needless to say, it sucks, and the rest of the album follows suit, with the "Cemetery Gates" meets "Fade to Black" bullshit of "Better Man", horrible vocal/riff exchange of "It's On!", the chugging lowdown grime of "Pole Rider" and dumb wigga grooves saturating "Alive and Well" until the rock chorus erupts.
Still a 'hell no' for Hellyeah here, and Stampede certainly doesn't elevate the band beyond the suck territories, but its undoubtedly better crafted than the first record out. For a few moments, at least, you can be transported to a hard ass world where your guns, tobacco and attitude are all that separate you from the precipice of death. However, I still feel like this band should stop 'horsing' around (haw haw) and KICK some ASS! Write a concept album about some famous cowboy or something, and enhance both the musical skill and ambition. Clearly these guys can play what they need to play, and judging by the vocal improvement alone, Chad is up to the task of something far better than what he's written here or in the awful Mudvayne. So make it happen already, and kick our asses back into the 19th century.