New Empire Vol 1 is the latest installment in the already fascinatingly diverse repertoire of the LA multi-genre act Hollywood Undead. I see the band as a great example of artists in the peak of their development and experimentation frenzy. The five-piece somehow manage to maintain their original well-recognized style while constantly experimenting with new sounds and influences.
New Empire Vol 1 is another display of how intriguing their music journey is. A unity of the sharp-tongued lyrics the band is known for with a brutal mix of fast-pace hip-hop and aggressive hard-rock sound guided by modern beats is one way to put it.
Listen to New Empire Vol 1
I think New Empire Vol 1 can easily be divided into two parts.
The first one is where the aggression and anger Hollywood Undead are proficient in expressing in the most powerful way possible is overflowing. Their anger is sparked from a global viewpoint exploring society as a whole. Our degradation, judgmental nature, and complete brainwashing are dismantled very effectively in ruthless lyrical content and powerful hard-rock riffs.
The second part still contains strong elements and angry notes but puts the focus on a personal level and delves into self-reflection and dealing with your own demons.
A noteworthy evolution of a consistent visual style including epileptic glitches is another great point for this release
Heaviness prevails during the course of the first six songs – hardcore instrumentals, scream and growl elements well incorporated in fast-paced aggressive hip-hop verses giving them the overall feel of true neometal anthems. The band has clearly been expanding inspiration in terms of sound and bringing it to the next level.
We can see improved contributions from all members including razor-sharp rapping from Charlie Scene, terrifying screams by J-Dog (this album is definitely his time to shine and he has been evolving with his vocals), great balance of singing, rapping, and growls delivered with stunning confidence from Johnny Three Tears, beautiful singing by Danny, and well-executed gangster-like rap verses by Funny Man.
The lyrical content is, as usual, on an extremely high level. The more you listen and the deeper you look into the songs the more you begin to appreciate them. Hollywood Undead are known for a few distinctive elements in their songwriting and they are all present full-power in New Empire Vol 1 – ruthless exposure of the truth, thought-provoking metaphors, confident claim of ground, funny and witty references and admirable wordplay.
The first part of the album put a heavy focus on pressing issues and widely discussed topics in recent times – the established common mindset, toxic negativity of society and our development as humans. The opener of the album creates the right impression for the rest of the tracklist (or at least most of it) by rebelliously condemning the direction in which we are going. Touching the areas of digitalization, judgment, and blind following the song radiates anger and disapproval with aggressive instrumentals and vocals alike.
Many of the rest follow the example – Heart Of A Champion preserves the powerful, energetic feel and adds badass, determined claim of ground stating the band is not about to back-off from their methods and beliefs just because some people don’t approve. I think the song can easily be classified as the Hollywood Undead anthem of the album – a must-have for each record the band has made so far. The addictive chorus also makes it one of the catchiest songs on the record for me (together with Nightmare).
Already Dead brings back the hardcore energy and angry vibes. The song fiercely solves the problem of dealing with negativity and people’s bullshit and exposes the stupidity of the phenomenon quite accurately. The chorus once again shines with catchiness and the entire song is strangely empowering and inspirational.
Empire follows the example and ads up interesting elements like glitch (vocal) effects. The song is interesting to look into as it has many metaphors included and slowly starts introducing the themes of self-reflection and regret of past choices.
I’m all alone with my solitary violence
God, I want to sleep, but I can’t close my eyelids
Back to the streets ’cause we know all the right kids
Built this fucking city on the backs of the white bricks
Before deep-diving into the more personal part of the album, we are presented with a track strongly reminding of the vibe that PSALMS contained. A gangster/badass sounding track, Killin It features the most interesting wordplay and throwback references and certainly makes Funny Man stand out with his splendid delivery and perfectly timed vocals. Charlie Scene does not fall behind and also makes himself memorable with his iconic verses.
Had the game on hold since “Everywhere I Go”
You know what I’m like, Wayne Gacy crazy
And Cujo on the mic, Jay-Z with rabies
Enemy marks the start of the self-reflection I have been hyping so much. This is one part of Hollywood Undead’s art I highly respect and enjoy – despite being proficient in aggressive neometal as well as party-starting goofy rap the band certainly knows how to explore the darkest depths of their minds. The sixth track on New Empire Vol 1 once again displays diversity introducing some grunge influences in terms of sound and presenting a metaphorical conversation with one’s demons – the enemy in question.
I look in the mirror, and I hate what I see
No, it’s not somebody else that’s always fucking with me
No, it won’t let me rest, no, it won’t let me be
Just put a bullet in my head, we’ll both go to sleep
Why can’t I get along with the voice in my head?
Got my sanity hanging from a thread
A very accurate and impactful representation of internal mental struggles the song can resonate with listeners with its relatability and accurate transmission of emotions. Once again interesting sonic elements and great vocal performance enhance the experience and turn it into one of Hollywood Undead’s finest.
Enemy only marked the start of the personal part of the album which is preserved until the very end. Furthermore, it only gets stronger with each new track.
After clarifying one’s worst enemy is their own mind the band proceeds to get deeper and talks about accepting mistakes and dealing with regret. The uplifting message to use those mistakes and the negativity and pain of regret to fuel self-improvement is evident and it makes the song a true delight. The song also features Kellin Quinn – a great addition to the already diverse vocal specialties of the five band members.
Second Chances continues the reflection of life and past mistakes. This time the emphasis is on making things right and not relying on second chances because you do not always have the privilege to get them. The track represents an eye-opening confession dealing with the reality of life and serves as great thought-food served on fitting instrumental foundation.
I find Nightmare to be one of the strongest songs on the record. It unveils J-Dog, Johnny Three, and Charlie make confessions about their lives and personal struggles in a very touching way. The song is definitely the peak of the personal aspect of the album and can easily make it in the top of the band’s heartfelt confession-oriented tracks.
When I’m having a meltdown, can’t ask for help now
Got so much self-doubt that I weird myself out, can you help out?
So many selfish phobias like self-inflicted loneliness
Many details and the expected deep metaphors are present creating a strong effect. The song ends with a concerning conclusion which also marks the end of the album and makes listeners speculate whether or not this will have a connection to the expected and hinted New Empire Vol 2.
But fuck it, I got nothing left to say
We’re all gonna die anyway
Shit could happen to me any day
I just spit thirty-two and didn’t say a damn thing
New Empire Vol 1 proved to be more than I initially imagined. As with many great albums, including previous releases from Hollywood Undead, it took me a few replays to better understand the concept, clever song construction, forward-thinking in terms of instrumental build-up, and the depth of lyrics. With each new listen more details uncovered and stronger feelings arose.
The recognizable identity of the band is fully preserved – you can immediately tell this is Hollywood Undead you are listening to. Yet, there is an impressive amount of progress, experimentation, and new influences for such a short tracklist.
What is more, the fact the album was titled New Empire Vol 1 (and interviews the band did) confirm that a second part of the concept that has started will see the world sooner or later. Something I am very excited about – which side of society are they going to tear apart this time and what new sound elements will we witness. Will the endless fight with personal demons get bloodier? In any case, I am sure the result will blow us away once again.
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