The first Hellyeah song I ever heard was the cringe-inducing “Alcohalin’ Ass”, I laughed my ass off the whole way through the song and assumed they were a comedy band. Not only are they not a comedy band, they lack so much self awareness that this record, purported to be a straight up metal album that departs from their (apparently reluctant) southern origins, is more southern than a cowboy on an oil drill wearing one of Norma Jean’s ‘Support Southern Rock’ t-shirts. For starters, opener “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)” has a Spanish (a.k.a. Mexican) title. Besides, the very nature of a blood debt is synonymous with a fiery Latin temper and a fierce sense of familial honour, muchacho. While it’s not as hilarious as “Cowboy Way” from Stampede, it’s still an odd way to begin an album that’s supposed to prove that they’ve moved on from their cowboy fantasies.
It’s not all hoedowns, though – there’s a fair bit of diversity to be found here. “Moth” is a surprisingly heartfelt highlight. This record is pretty much entirely balls-to-the-wall metal, so hearing Chad Gray screeching away about his insecurities in love and how hard his life is, is a welcome departure from their standard head banging rodeo style (it should be noted, however, that “Moth” being a highlight speaks volumes about the quality of the other songs). Further, the vocal structures of both “Sangre por Sangre…” and “Demons in the Dirt” are delivered in a rapid fire staccato, heavily reminiscent of Slipknot. Frankly, I’d forgive you for mistaking the verses of “Demons in the Dirt” for the verses in “Duality”.
So, in short, we’ve got emotional ballads like “Moth” interspersed with head crushers that remind you of Slipknot. This has no right being anything less than a trainwreck. It’s ridiculous in all the ways, not unlike Five Finger Death Punch’s Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell album from 2013. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when this album was pitched to the label. I can only assume that the negotiations went like this – Chad Gray and Vinnie Paul walked into the room, sat down, nodded politely while the label execs prattled on about money, slowly placed each hand underneath the table, then flipped that son of a bitch in the air and said “Fuck you. We’re Chad Gray and Vinnie Paul. We’re gonna do whatever we want and you can’t do shit about it.” (pretty much)
And yet, in spite of its many, many flaws, I adore this stupid, gun-totin’ thing. It’s adorable in its ridiculousness, much like a puppy falling asleep, rolling down a slippery slide, landing on its bum and waking up from the impact. It clearly has no idea what it wants to be – it’s a mess of conflicting stylistic choices that would make Mastodon plead for continuity. None of that matters, though. Blood for Blood is just one of those albums that has real heart and passion, and it’s without a doubt their strongest work to date. Good job, boys.