Nu metal just needs to call it a day now. That’s not a reference to bands like Korn or Papa Roach who have either tailored their sound with contemporary touches, or have made consistently solid albums. No, it’s to bands that have remained in a constant loop of churning out the very base of what the genre has to offer, somehow making it to 2016 with a sound that would’ve just about been passable in the early 2000s. Such accusations have often been leveled at Drowning Pool – that they’ve spent the best part of the last decade and a half running on fumes after their 2001 debut Sinner (and, more likely, it’s smash hit of a lead single Bodies). To an extent, that’s fair – having a run of four different singers across six albums may seem like nothing but a monumentally excessive way to reap the rewards of that one single – but at the very least it shows they’re trying.
And besides, while Hellelujah is a bit of a mixed bag, it’s more of a hit than a lot of their output, especially compared to vocalist Jason Moreno’s debut, 2013’s dull-as-dishwater Resilience. The greasy, nu-metal heart is still there, but this time covered by a veneer of Southern metal swagger that, when used right, makes for some of the best material they’ve ever produced. It’s the opening trio of Push, By The Blood and Drop that represents this the best – three pieces of high-quality meathead mosh-fodder to whom subtlety is a foreign concept, but convey their enjoyability through the medium of hulking great riffs. Another high point is the sludgy Goddamn Vultures with its confrontational vibe and shout-along chorus, with the meaty Snake Charmer and Stomping Ground both coming in a close second.
Where Hellelujah falters isn’t because it’s outright bad as such, but more forgettable. Thirteen tracks of a near constant low-brow metal slugging was always likely to have some filler lurking around, and Hellelujah has its fair share. Sympathy Depleted and Meet The Bullet seem like nothing more than lower-grade copies of the album’s better tracks, while the choppy, almost metalcore stylings of All Saints Day rounds off the album on a note that feels completely at odds with everything that’s preceded it. Another Name represents the album’s real nadir though, a gutless post-grunge ballad that practically drowns in its own wetness and feels as though its inclusion serves no other purpose than being the perfunctory emotional moment.
While this can be overlooked in the long run though, Hellelujah‘s damning fault comes in its construction. As well as its repetitve nature making it absolutely exhausting to sit through, it’s the fact that it’s so undemanding and – for want of a better word – trashy that makes this slightly uncomfortable. Obviously these are songs that were designed to be played live rather than merely listened to on record, and with the possible exception of the first three tracks, there’s really none of the danger of the live environment here. It’s a bit more jagged that Resilience was, but it still doesn’t pack the same head-smashing bluntness as it would on the stage.
It’s definitely an album of odds because of this – on one hand, it marks a career highlight for Drowning Pool in terms of decent songs (if not entirely songwriting), but on the other, it’s so base that it’s hard to think who it would appeal to besides America’s unfortunate surplus of gun-toting Trump supporters. Putting all of that aside though, Hellelujah represents one of the higher points of Drowning Pool’s career, a rather empty compliment, many would argue, but a compliment nonetheless. There will undoubtedly be way better albums released than this one this year, but there will also be way worse as well, and if you turn your brain off there’s plenty to get into here. And there must be very few who ever expected that to be said about a Drowning Pool album in 2016.
For fans of: Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, Hellyeah
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Hellelujah’ by Drowning Pool is out now on eOne Music.