HellYeah’s Blood for Blood will make you bleed. Music is supposed to make you feel things and this album expresses rage, disgust, and compassion. The compassion is what slayed me because it wasn’t sappy, poor-me shit. The lyrical themes revolve around the suffering we have all experienced from heart break to self destructive behaviors to an abusive childhood. The ills of society are the thread that connects them. Hell is a prominent theme, as well as fire and blood, and pain — lots of it.
HellYeah comes off as brutal, lead-footed groove metal but with a classic heavy metal underpinning. The percussion pummels, the guitars are down-tuned and buzzed yet have a melodic sensibility that is connected to the drumming by the bass guitar. This is a slick production, creating a wall of thick sound that is evident in all of the songs. I did not want to skip over any of the tracks.
“Sangre por Sangre,” the title track en Espanol, is a commentary on the state of the Union so to speak.
Democracy is hypocrisy/ a dictatorship is what we need/ because really what’s the fucking difference/ so come on in and take a seat/ listen to the lines they love to preach/ because the truth we would see is fucking senseless.
It’s a no-lube, ear-fuck kind of song. Of similar note are the tracks “Demons in the Dirt,” “Soul Killer,” “Gift,” and “Feast or Famine.”
“Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones)” and “DMF” (Die Mother Fucker) are fist-pumping, head banging anthems that I devoured. “Say When” has a fast, relentless pace that is hardcore down to its roots. Throw in a suh-weet time change to the end of the verse and I had to lean back in groove-induced ecstasy and say “Fuck yeah.”
When it comes to slowing it down, Hell Yeah surprised me. I don’t like slow, sappy songs or power ballads. They make me puke. That’s a personal preference, which means if I hate it there will be a (large) segment of the population that will absolutely swoon over it and push it up to the top of the charts <gagging noises>. Not so with Blood for Blood’s three “slower” tracks. They deal with sensitive issues in a confessional mien but with such finesse that I was powerfully moved.
“Moth” is a foreshadowing to “Hush.”
Always thought I was human but maybe I’m wrong/ been treated like an animal since the day I was born
There’s an awareness here, as if a sense of self has taken root strongly enough that a torrential rain won’t wash it away. There is sweetness to the music that I find refreshing, as if beauty is found not just in the hammering riff and pummeling drums of self-flagellation but also in the restrained picking of an acoustic guitar and harmonized clean vocals that confide to a woman.
Like a moth to a flame/my wings burn away/ when things are too beautiful/ I smash them to pieces/ the more that you love me/ insecurity releases/ I’ll be the one that’s to blame/so I’ll sell my soul to bleed/ like a moth to a flame
The most evocative song is “Hush.” The chorus is catchy with the drums mimicking the stomp of a man’s angry feet and the jangle of the guitars bringing to mind the metallic “chink” of a belt buckle. Gray’s voice pushes a world of hurt and anger into the words:
Hell’s where I was born/ Hell’s where I was raised/ this Hell is where I’m from/ and this Hell is where I’ll stay
This verse juxtaposes the subtle with the obvious and is perhaps a key device in why the song is so powerful:
You just can’t stand the touch/ affection weighs too much/ you push everyone away from / the reckoning/ the bed of stings/ whipped so bad I pissed myself/ still were the beatings from that belt/ if this reminds of you of home/ you better know you’re not alone/ hold the gun up to my head/ I’ll pull the trigger on myself
(Any errors to the lyrics are my own.) There is an acoustic, stripped down version at the end that only amplifies the shivering rage and pain in Gray’s voice. This song brought me to my knees and that’s not easy to do.
“Black December,” another favorite, is a moody, groovy eulogy to the month and its hypocrisy. There is a tongue-in-cheek sensibility here to not only the lyrics but the music. The song is mournful and sarcastic addressing the very real depression that some people feel as the reality of December as the middle of death via winter is dressed up in “Falalas” and commercial emptiness.
Blood for Blood stripped away the delusions of brotherhood that HellYeah tried to shove down our throats in Band of Brothers. In retrospect, I see the last album’s theme in the context of the band as a whole trying to kid themselves that things were working. With the departure of guitarist Greg Tribbett and the bassist Bob “Zilla” Kahaha due to “headspace” incongruities, and the addition of bassist Kyle Sanders formerly of Blood Simple, there is a stripped down focus to this new entity. The signature sound is still there, only thicker and richer, but Gray’s lyrics aren’t trying to be political anymore. Passion and verity infused each song and as a unit, they were able to effectively plumb emotional depths with an honesty that catalyzes awareness.
Blood for Blood will release on June 10th and can be streamed through Eleven Seven Music for a limited time. After you’ve taken a listen, tell us what you think in the comments.
I.O. Kirkwood is a Metal Descent contributor. You can check out her personal blog at http://iokirkwood.com.