Hellyeah - _Hellyeah_
(Epic Records, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (6.5 out of 10)
This review is a bit late in coming, so I've had pause to take in a handful of already published opinions, nearly all of which start off with an encomium to the fallen brother of Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul, the influentially immortal Dimebag. Yeah, well, I think I'm gonna pass on the opportunity to dig deep for yet another eulogy, not to downplay or diminish the loss our fallen hero, but because the whole knee jerk teary-eyed moment seems a bit disingenuous in light of Hellyeah's debut offering, which seems composed entirely in a celebratory debauch of decadent nu metal clichés and lunkheaded testosterone fits, with little hint of tragedy or regret.

So, sorry, Vin... always wished you the best, and _Hellyeah_ is fun and catchy in a completely disposable sort of fashion, but it's a long way from the artistic heights (or even valleys) of Pantera, innit? If anything, this band is even more expendable than your previous outfit, Damageplan, which brother Dime had the ignominious misfortune to exit this world on (oh yeah, I wasn't gonna go there, was I?). On a commercial level, however, Hellyeah is an improvement on Damageplan's ambivalence over choosing between the heavy or the groove, as all twelve tracks here appear written specifically to provide hard rock radio with easily digested pabulum in three to four minute bursts. First single "You Wouldn't Know" has all the requisite crunchy riffs dueling it out with slightly discordant, ringing chords and an anthemic chorus wailed out in an abrasive yet suitably melodic vocal styling. You know the rest.

The only thing that sounds remotely experimental here is "Alcohaulin' Ass", and that's only if you consider "experimental" to be a cross between Black Label Society and the '80s southern hair band Junkyard. Other scribes may predictably call to mind Kid Rock and his derivations on mainstream-inflected country, and I suppose there's a bit of that; but Dimebag was friends with Zakk Wylde, and the founders of Junkyard were originally from Vinnie's home state of Texas, at least before moving out to LA to make their fortunes on the Sunset Strip. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but since when does Kid Rock get a nod every time a rock artist decides to dabble in country? Especially when Vinnie's last released project was a collaboration with David Allan Coe (Rebel Meets Rebel)! Anyway, "Alcohaulin' Ass" is every bit as superfluous as the rest of the album, yet a much more successful guilty pleasure nonetheless.

Here's the problem: the catchier songs -- "You Wouldn't Know", "Nausea", "Matter of Time" -- are all written from a place of belligerent lashing out, which means they're all fairly juvenile in outlook and articulated in rudimentary fashion at best; the songs that best typify the band's ostensible raison d'être of rocking out and having fun -- the title track, "Goddamn" -- are so generic and underwritten they can't even be enjoyed as mindless fluff pieces. Of course, this leaves out the other half of the album, which is just plain half assed altogether. This is to be expected to some extent, as Hellyeah was reportedly lashed together between engagements by Vinnie and members of Nothingface and Mudvayne, and if this turns out to be a one-off side project before Vinnie moves on to greater things more worthy of his talents, than hey... no harm, no foul.

Oh, and one more thing: most of these other reviews I've read so far mention how great it is to finally have Vinnie drumming on record again. And sure, in -theory- it is, but I heard nothing on _Hellyeah_ that couldn't have been bested on any given track by defunct Texan thrashers Pissing Razors, whose drummer -- Eddie Garcia -- was (is, I suppose) heavily influenced by Vinnie. There are standard double bass rolls, to be sure, but for the most part Vinnie keeps his contributions reined in in service to the songs. I mention this lest someone buy this album for the same reasons they bought Rebel Meets Rebel -- sure, the songs basically sucked, but it was worth listening to for Dime's always exemplary guitar playing. Well, this time around the songs are a lot more up to snuff, but there's little remarkable about the musicianship. Caveat emptor and all that jazz.

Contact: http://www.hellyeahband.com

(article published 23/6/2007)

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