Hollywood Undead are releasing their highly-anticipated sixth studio album New Empire, Vol. 1 on February 14, 2020 via Dove & Grenade Media/BMG. Immediately roping listeners in with “Time Bomb,” the heavy guitar riffs and gritty vocals show elements of older Hollywood Undead while pushing a revolutionized sound that I used to listen to in high school. Starting off with a banger, this set the framework for the album ahead. The angst in this song brought me back to my early teen years where I relived those emotions.
Personal connections can fuel someone’s favorite song on an album. “Killin It” is not my standout track because of an emotional affiliation; rather, it was the unexpected lyrical content in contrast to the song title that caught my attention. As someone who is from Illinois and grew up knowing people affected by John Wayne Gacy, hearing his name in a song was a jolting experience. It brought my attention back to the lyrics instead of just vibing along to the instrumentals and breakdowns, hitting home the story of the crazy triumph the band is experiencing. The song finding its place in the middle of the effort offers a break from the deeper content, giving a refreshing break before diving right back into the heavier music with “Enemy.”
Guest features can add a special touch to an album, especially when showcasing musicians like Benji Madden (Good Charlotte) and Kellin Quinn (Sleeping With Sirens) on songs that complement their vocal range and tone. It adds a sense of familiarity to the unknown territory Hollywood Undead is stepping into with this album. “Upside Down” features Quinn on a heavy track with his vocals creating a soft break in the song. “Second Chances” features Madden, giving the song a prepositioned heavy grunge tone. The plea for a second chance is evident, but the fight to not give up is an underlying theme.
There’s no single genre to categorize Hollywood Undead. Each song on this powerhouse album flows from the first to the last without a sudden disruption, creating a track list of emotionally charged songs that will stir up feelings for any listener.
“Nightmare” is a perfect album closer with its soft introduction before the heavy elements kick in, representing all the pressures of life with lyrics: “I got nothing left to say / We’re all gonna die anyway / Shit could happen to me any day / I just spit thirty-two and didn’t say a damn thing.” The conclusion feels like the album is a dream and everything the band has achieved is just part of this nightmare called life.