The challenge of supergroups tends to come down to members proving that their new creation is more than the sum of its parts, and for no one member to root their influences so deeply that the band becomes a mere extension of their primary act. For groove-driven heavy metal supergroup Hellyeah, this is accomplished through the ability of their pooled expertise to deliver a radio-ready package of fight anthems for the casual metal listener. This may be a tall order for a less talented group, but Hellyeah’s sixth studio album “Welcome Home” balances an original aggression in short, explosive blows that builds on small tastes of each musician’s foundations, leaning particularly heavily into the influences of both Pantera and Mudvayne.
The release of “Welcome Home” is one that is bittersweet, as it comes a year after the untimely passing of drummer Vinnie Paul (ex-Pantera) in summer 2018. Containing some of Paul’s final recording sessions, members see “Welcome Home” as a celebration of an incredible life, and all that Paul was able to accomplish in both Hellyeah and in the legacy of his other musical endeavors. Their devotion to their former bandmate carried through their 2019 tour, during which proceeds of ticket sales were donated to the American Heart Association. To hear Paul’s steadfast presence in the stable percussion of “Welcome Home” is enough to embody the true spirit of his impact as a musician, one that saw a genre built alongside his guiding hands.
In an album packed with short and fierce single-ready tracks, it is title track “Welcome Home” that provides the most palatable segue into the atmosphere that Hellyeah crafts through a sea of shouts and relentless guitars. One of the slowest on the album, it leans on clean vocals and a gentle hook to draw listeners into the fray. While vocalist Chad Gray (Mudvayne) may rely on gritty shouts to fill the body of most tracks, it is the crisp muted opening verse that softens the blows from the urgent guitar that breaks in shortly afterwards. Pushing and pulling between moderate interim passages and the shouting upon which Hellyeah built their appeal sets “Welcome Home” as the clear frontrunner for a first single. In the early weeks of the track’s release, it gained not just critical acclaim, but held top placements across national radio charts.
No matter how pleasant the more tender delivery of “Welcome Home” may be for the radio, there are also tracks that stand out among the mix as clear metal anthems that embody the spirit of the genre’s foundation. For a chorus that is sure to get stuck on repeat inside one’s head, “Black Flag Army” is a must-listen. Sharp, quickly spoken verses are a deceptively crisp interim to the crushing strength of the song’s chorus, which becomes a shouted mantra that tears free from Gray’s throat without an ounce of forgiveness. Another explosive, short track that delivers both skills in songwriting and high value for repeated listens is “Oh My God.” For both tracks, their three-minute durations are frames in which both decades of experience and force can grow without bounds, particularly in the ruthless bite of backing vocals. With backing delivered by all other bandmates, the depth and energy of these two tracks swells beyond what Gray could provide alone.
Among explosive choruses, thoughtfully written hooks, and a distinctly gritty vocal style, Hellyeah has bountiful offerings for the mainstream metal scene. “Welcome Home” lacks tracks of a more explorative fashion, with the title track being the most experimental offering out of ten tracks that revolve around the pure aggression of a more historic style, rather than a hunt for distinctive originality. The shouts, shrill sting of electric guitars, and clashing of cymbals occupy most of the album’s body, sometimes muddy against one another. For Paul’s last recorded work, listeners occasionally have to strain to hear the finer points of a drummer that delivered unparalleled endurance and precision. This can be forgiven on an album that is built mainly on vocal contributions and the rhythms of reliable guitars, and doesn’t get in the way of delivering the album’s vision.
The eleventh track on the album, it’s concluding words, are the band’s lasting tribute to Paul. It’s an ending that is not out of place for a band that endured with his presence for more than a decade, and created new work for adoring fans around the world. Following thirty seconds of silence, a recording plays, and Paul’s crackling voice reminds listeners, and perhaps the world, that “a wonderful time is irreplaceable.”
Released by: Eleven Seven Music
Released on: September 27th, 2019
- Chad Grey / Vocals
- Vinnie Paul / Drums
- Christian Brady / Guitar
- Tom Maxwell / Guitar
- Kyle Sanders / Bass
“Welcome Home” Track Listing:
- Bury Me
- Welcome Home
- Sky and Water
- At Wick’s End
- I’m the One
- Black Flag Army
- Oh My God
- Boy in the Box
The treasure of Vinnie Paul’s last recordings relies on distinct vocal grit and punchy choruses to deliver accessible tracks to the metal mainstream, while simultaneously highlighting the collective experience of a talented gathering of musicians set on rocking the scene.