Papa Roach’s thunderous new album, F.E.A.R., divides the worlds of pop, rock and metal. This 12-track hard rock record manages to be both surprisingly heartfelt, catchy and affirmative, and simultaneously whiney, immature and unimaginative, ultimately falling somewhere in a murky musical middle ground.
To put it simply, F.E.A.R. is too predictable for metal and not predictable enough for pop music, instead propping itself up on rock tropes which you’ll either love or hate by virtue of their familiarity.
Nobody can deny the catchiness of this album: the heavy metal rhythm section combines with pop and rock structures to propel each track, creating an exciting, atmospheric sound which will draw any listener in, at least at first.
There’s a lack of distinct, strong electronic melodies, though, and pop lovers may eventually tire of F.E.A.R.‘s insatiable anthemics. Metal lovers, on the other hand, may lament the absence of long instrumentals. It’s a tight, made-for-radio album; the short songs don’t leave much room for imaginative progression.
Long-term fans will also notice the absence of the rap metal they have come to know and love. Instead, the album features frontman Jacoby Shaddix’s often distorted, ultra-American singing, dripping with the kind of angst that makes you nostalgic for those teenage years when you really felt things. It’s heartfelt and heavy.
Screamo lovers will no doubt complain that Shaddix’s vocal chords aren’t strained enough, and mainstream listeners may tire of the brief forays into scream that punctuate the anthems. Newcomers to the genre — whatever that is — may appreciate the balance Shaddix achieves between aggression and malady.
The vocalist’s recent religious conversion is evident in the album’s message about hope for the hopeless, sin, forgiveness, and empathy for those who mistreat others. Papa Roach maintains its grit by turning typical teenage themes of heartbreak and betrayal into all-out battle anthems for purpose and hope, but the resulting album sounds a bit like Switchfoot losing its temper. Which is OK, if you like Switchfoot, or losing your temper.
If the point of this album is purely to elicit an emotional response, then Papa Roach has definitely succeeded. You’ll either love or loathe every minute of F.E.A.R.. But no matter your musical leanings, you’re bound to get through at least a few tracks. This music will make you feel like you’re 17 again, for better or worse.
Papa Roach tour Australia with Soundwave Festival next month, playing sideshows with Godsmack and Nonpoint. ‘F.E.A.R.’ is available now.