ALBUM REVIEW: Hyro The Hero – ‘Bound For Glory’

Artwork for Hyro The Hero’s ‘Bound For Glory’

On Bound For Glory, Hyro The Hero is gearing up for something big. The title alone says it all—his destiny is to fully break out as a star, and this is clearly the album to do it. And therefore, it completes the overhaul he’s been in the process of for a long time now, though most notably cropping up on 2018’s album Flagged Channel. For Hyro, that was a full graduation into rap-rock whose crossover potential was blatant; crafting your early band with alumni from At The Drive-In and The Blood Brothers is a great next step from what began as freestyling over ‘90s post-hardcore and alt-metal instrumentals, but it’s a bit of a looser launchpad overall when aspirations to be the next big thing are concerned. Therefore, the last half-decade has seen Hyro doubling down on his readiness to blow. The full transition to nu-metal / radio-metal has been made, and Bound For Glory has been stuffed full of high-profile guest performers to maximise some form of exposure via osmosis.

It goes without saying that Bound For Glory’s most impressive feat is showing off how well-connected Hyro is. The majority of these songs feature a big-name guest performer, even for a cursory hook or supportive presence, and thus, on a purely empirical scale of having the clout (and, most likely, the label resources) to pull this kind of rogues’ gallery, it’s the biggest he’s ever gotten. But that also comes at the expense of a lot of what made him a cool, interesting presence to begin with. Slot him among a slew of rap-metal artists with radio ambitions and the pulling power to make it happen, and what really changes?

Granted, Hyro himself still has the performance chops to create some distance between him and the soup of pure assimilation below. He’s way too forceful and capable of a surprising breadth of intensity to be brought down too far, to where it’s hardly a surprise that Bound For Glory succeeds most often when he’s left to his own devices. Away from a guest star corralling the overall momentum, the floor for quality notably raises like on Renegade Of Punk or his reworking of Busta Rhymes’ Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check. The latter especially shows off how animated Hyro can come across when given the opportunity; it might be a bit of an over-performance at times, but it’s unequivocally the most concentrated bit of fun that Bound For Glory has to offer.

By comparison, getting roped into the radio-rock shtick never feels too beneficial for Hyro. He’s never fighting for space with his guest star but you can tell how plenty will suck the air out of what’s going on, or leach away a lot of prior personality. Especially with someone like Disturbed’s David Draiman on We Believe, there’s the combination of such an inimitable voice and a fairly small part that all attention is magnetised to him; Hyro winds up playing second fiddle on his own song that, in terms of raw minutes, he still dominates. That’s the most extreme example overall, but there’s definitely a recalibration of tone that’s clearly in place to fit more cleanly here. When the album’s first line is “Can’t sleep at night with all these demons in my mind”, it’s a bellwether of the easily-digestible, unwilling-to-challenge fare that Hyro is committed to if this breakthrough attempt is to pan out. Thankfully, it’s rarely too objectionable—more generic than is worth remembering, if anything—though attempts at socio-political ‘commentary’ on FU 2 or We Believe that fixate on people getting offended and “social network soldiers” have precisely as little worth as they always do. Hell, the former features Fire From The Gods’ AJ Channer, who should certainly know better than to align himself with something this shallow and reductive!

At least Hyro can sell it with bucketloads of genuine conviction, where he’s able to clear so much similar rap-rock through capability alone. It’s the kind of boon that a hip-hop background gives, and paired with some satisfying heaviness like on Sho Nuff, the results mightn’t be as creative as they were in the past but there’s enough explosiveness to count. Bound For Glory definitely strikes with purpose in that regard; on the whole, it’s way less limp and processed than your typical radio-rock space-filler tends to be. There’ll also be an assortment of hip-hop beats sprinkled in for more flavour, even though it’d be nice if that could extend further, and in a direction that actually behooves the album to fly a bit more. It’s one thing to recycle some heat by including the two-year-old single Legendary but having it remixed into a diabolical, grunting dubstep nightmare is infinitely more egregious.

And that’s when you stumble across the ceiling that Bound For Glory regularly bumps into, creatively if not commercially. Without a doubt, this contains Hyro’s greatest chance yet at getting big, particularly in a US mainstream rock ecosystem with so many of its heavy hitters already accounted for. And you get the feeling that that’s the main goal here. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be cramming in every possible shortcut to get there without irreparably changing what Hyro’s music is all about. He’s unquestionably the best part of the album—as it should be—but it’s also only a part, where the influence of what’s around him falls back on him, rather than the other way around. Not necessarily to the extent of outright compromise, but in a significant enough way for Bound For Glory to feel…lacking, especially compared to what came before. It could’ve much worse though, and a thinly-sketched consolation is better than nothing.

For fans of: Five Finger Death Punch, Fire From The Gods, Nothing More

‘Bound For Glory’ by Hyro The Hero is released on 15th September on Better Noise Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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