Headbangers, take note! Don’t waste time concerning yourself with the band members’ impressive resumes or with dwelling on their previous work. On BLOOD FOR BLOOD, HELLYEAH lives in the here and now.
BLOOD FOR BLOOD is the album that HELLYEAH –featuring Mudvayne’s Chad Gray on vocals, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul on drums and Nothingface’s Tom Maxwell on guitar–has always wanted to make. “It’s a defining record for HELLYEAH and for anyone on the fence,” Paul declared, describing the record as “focused and with a clear direction.”
After roughly eight years, three albums, countless tours as headliners and as participants on “can’t miss” festival bills and hundreds of thousands of albums sold, HELLYEAH is making their biggest and boldest statement yet with BLOOD FOR BLOOD. They are going for the jugular and every song on the album clamps down and doesn’t let go. They’ve exchanged some of the party-centric, good time sounds of past efforts for pure metallic fury and emotional introspection. The album sounds like a re-charged HELLYEAH, taken up many notches.
BLOOD FOR BLOOD is easily their most metallic album. It leaves a mark, thanks to songs like the angular, vengeful “DMF.” There’s also “Demons In The Dirt,” a beast of a song birthed by the sort of anger that can’t be faked; it will leave you wondering who pissed these guys off. “Gift” is dirty, rowdy rock with equal parts groove and swagger, but also possessed of the sort of punk rock energy that would make Motorhead fans turns their heads. Then there is moodier, more contemplative fare like “Moth to the Flame” or “Hush,” which connect on an emotional, cellular level, proving that you can be incredibly heavy in ways other than loud and fast.
“We still have a love affair with this band and have a lot we want to say,” explained Maxwell. He relished taking on a larger songwriting role and serving as the lead guitarist, which you can hear in the album’s overall sound and in every note of his playing. “That magic is there for us, still. This is the record I’ve always wanted to make in this band, which has so many creative forces.” Gray also shared that changes made the members closer. “We leaned on each other for support and inspiration,” he said. As a result, the album is tight and the foundation is firm. Fans will be pleased.
The band opted to work with an outside producer for the first time ever, recruiting Las Vegas-based Canadian producer, Kevin Churko for the job. “To move forward, you have to make changes,” said Paul, who wrote the music in Texas with Maxwell before heading to Hideout Recording Studio in Sin City to put it to tape.
“I am used to being a producer or co-producer and I wanted to see what would happen if I backed up and let someone take the reigns, leaving me to just be a drummer,” said Paul, while admitting that vocals were the one area of production to which he couldn’t do proper justice. The band was happy to allow Churko to provide a fresh perspective. Given Churko’s resume, which is littered with names as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, In This Moment and Five Finger Death Punch, the band knew he was the man who could pull the best performance possible out of Gray. The singer himself praised that Churko had a unique way of extracting what he wanted, saying, “You can be a drill sergeant and rule through intimidation or be laid back and cool, but get it done without pressure. He rules through cool.”
Overall, the album has less of an obvious southern influence, with Paul deeming it “a metal record that also has melody. It lends itself to a diverse group of people.”
As the mouthpiece for the band, Gray lets out his primal scream throughout the album, enabling him to properly and fully express his emotions in the music. “We want to shut people up a little, the people who have never given Hellyeah the time of day, for whatever reason,” the singer said. “Whether you want it or not, it’s undeniable. This [album] is an every night fistfight.” Gray shared that he firmly believes in music as therapy and revels in helping the band’s fans achieve catharsis with the music they have created.
He acknowledged the fact that the album is devoid of the party anthems that previously populated the Hellyeah catalog. “There is not a party song on this record, which we are kind of known for,” he said. Gray continued “As much as I love those songs, they put us in a certain box that I’ve never been comfortable in since I’m not always like that.” Instead, Gray and his bandmates wanted to show a depth, breadth and range of emotions and styles.
It was important for Gray to craft songs that were heavy on multiple levels at the same time. His approach was that heavy doesn’t always mean as fast and as loud as possible. He said, “For me, personally, I was going through my emotional checklist, and how I wanted to be heavy both aggressively and emotionally. I need that balance.” For example, the mercurial “Moth To The Flame” examines our base, animal instincts and drives. Despite knowing something is bad for you and will burn you, you still can’t pull yourself away from it.
“Black December” turns a critical eye on the year-end holiday season, and more deeply, the sadness that can permeate the end of the year. “It’s a deadly month and depressing,” Gray explained. “It’s a hard month to get through with all the bullshit and commercialization. John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell were killed in December – that’s like taking away things I need to live. I can’t celebrate this whole December vibe.”
For his part, Paul labeled his drumming on “Say When” as some of the most challenging of his career, going so far as to say he hasn’t played like this since Pantera’s 1994 opus Far Beyond Driven. “It’s so off the chain, and I will be worn out every night when I play it,” the kit minder said. While that may be bad for Paul, it’s a very good thing for metal fans.
Maxwell also points to the more mainstream rock element of “Hush,” which brings a sense of community to those who have had turbulent upbringings. The song is successful “at being heavy while being uplifting.” That’s not easy to do, but HELLYEAH make it seem and sound easy.
BLOOD FOR BLOOD marks a new chapter for Hellyeah. They pushed themselves to new limits, dared to embrace change and to take risks with their music by just doing what comes naturally. Gray said it best: “The more you listen to it, the more it will open up to you.”
Go ahead. Open the door and crank the knobs on Hellyeah’s BLOOD FOR BLOOD