This year Grammy Award-nominated hard rock band, Papa Roach, celebrate their fifteenth anniversary since their triple-platinum major-label debut, Infest. The Californian rockers have just spent the best part of 2014 living under the same roof to write and record, from scratch, their newest album, which has just been released simultaneously with this milestone.
Their ninth studio album, F.E.A.R. (Face Everything And Rise) sees the band more or less shying away from the nu metal and rap that defined their earliest releases (though with some exceptions). Instead, Papa Roach have started exploring more electronic sounds in a move that demonstrates their willingness to experiment and transform as a band.
For those familiar with Papa Roach’s previous releases, the synth-driven opening track might come across as unexpectedly electronic. The title track, Face Everything And Rise is one of the most commercial sounding songs on the album, with its verse building to a defiant anthemic chorus that encourages the listener to yell along. However, while singer Jacoby Shaddix’s delivery is passionate, the lyrical content itself seems weak. The line, “Angels keep falling from the sky, I’ll take their broken wings and learn to fly,” being a prime example. Clearly chosen for their rhyming potential, the lyrics on Face Everything And Rise offer a glimpse of what’s to come, with the rest of the album’s vocals offering a string of clichés and banality.
The electronic aspects of this album reappear strongly in Warriors, which almost seems suited to a club environment, however this is also one of the only tracks on F.E.A.R that sees the band return to its rap origins, with contributions from hip-hop luminary Royce da 5’9” – a member of supergroup Slaughterhouse and one half of Eminem’s Bad Meets Evil. While this is an interesting turn for the album to take, it is the earlier tune, Gravity, which packs the strongest impact.
Anyone not familiar with Papa Roach’s early leanings towards rap-metal may be taken aback by this track. Shaddix’s sudden shift into rapping does causes the album to sound less than cohesive, however it is possibly the singer at his strongest. Again the lyrics are uninspired, but vocals make a welcome change to the relentless delivery of previous songs. In addition, the contribution from Maria Brink of In This Moments adds an extra element to this track – her passionately wailed vocals make it a certain standout.
F.E.A.R. is a difficult album to fully embrace. Papa Roach clearly know how to write a catchy anthem and, as a result, their ninth release is certainly commercial and fit for radio play. However, it does seem to lack substance, its commerciality not fully disguising the fact that most of the songs and their lyrics seem to lack meaning. Overall F.E.A.R. is inoffensive and easily digestible, but after the acclaim of their previous albums, I would have expected a lot more from Papa Roach.