The revival of nu-metal

New Hollywood Undead record reimagines standards


Brian Cox

On Feb. 14, nu-metal band Hollywood Undead released their sixth studio album titled “New Empire, Vol. 1.” Each of the nine tracks on the album tells a story, detailing the hardships of coming to terms with who you are. Lyrically, “New Empire, Vol. 1” is tamer than the band’s previous records, but the content still lives up to the edgy standard the band has gathered over time.

By Rachel Laposka, Starr's Mill High School

Nu-metal is a genre that some argue died back in the mid-2000s as various bands began to hop on the bandwagon. Many of these bands over-produced albums claiming to fall into the metal subgenre, leading to the inevitable decline of nu-metal. The genre was booming from the late ‘90s to about 2000, following the release of Linkin Park’s top-selling-record, “Hybrid Theory.”

The edgy genre is often described as heavy metal with various elements from other genres, typically alternative, funk, and rap. The genre itself is solid in my opinion, adding an unexpected twist to an otherwise intense heavy metal song, whether the twist is with a rapped verse or unusual instruments.

Popular bands in the mid-2000s, like Korn and Slipknot, set standards that soon became overwhelmed and dried out, causing a decrease in nu-metal bands. It is no mystery as to how the genre began to die down — the music industry is often quick to hop on new trends and run them to the ground. We see it almost every day with repeated sounds on the top charts.

Today, nu-metal can still be found in the metal scene, more specifically with bands like Hollywood Undead.

Hollywood Undead recently released their sixth studio album, “New Empire, Vol. 1” on Feb. 14. The album features nine tracks written to help reimagine the standards Hollywood Undead has placed for themselves.

Hollywood Undead is one of those bands I will never forget — my reasons being good and bad. I have always admired how the band never strays away from controversial topics, but sometimes they take it too far.

In previous albums, the band proves their graphic content with edgy lyrics that definitely are not for young audiences, with songs regarding extreme violence and other harsh actions that are explicitly described. Thankfully, the lyrics on “New Empire, Vol. 1” are not as extreme.

As a matter of fact, the lyrics on the album are empowering, centering around the idea of rebuilding self-image after society tears it down entirely. I was pleasantly surprised by the lyrics, while some may be more grim and intense, the overall message is positive with a definite focus on self-preservation.

My top three tracks from “New Empire, Vol. 1” are “Time Bomb,” “Already Dead,” and “Nightmare.

“Time Bomb” is a song that lyrically and instrumentally captured my attention. The guitar riffs in the song remind me of “Bring Me the Horizon,” each riff having a clean sound that adds just the right amount of edge to the lyrics.

The lyrics of “Time Bomb” convey what it feels like when it appears all hope is lost and there is no bright side to things. It is definitely not a foreign topic for Hollywood Undead. Nevertheless, the means by which the band takes to address the matter have drastically changed.

Before this new reimagined idea of Hollywood Undead, the lyrics of “Time Bomb” would definitely be more gruesome. Shockingly enough, this song is hopeful. This song expresses the wishes to live freely as yourself without society breathing down your neck.

A common theme I have noticed throughout the album is calling out the inequality so clearly displayed in society and how people often alter their identity so they fit in and appear “normal.” Hollywood Undead battles that belief, even referring to their music as “the revolution sound” in “Time Bomb.”

“Already Dead” is a 50/50 song to me. Half of the song is empowering with lyrics about not being able to be broken down, while the other half of the song appears hopeless due to the fact that they are “already dead.”

The song could be interpreted as either good or bad. Upon my first listen, I heard this as an anthem for rising above and pushing forward despite all of the people that may try to break you down along the way. It was not until my third listen of the song when I realized it had another, darker meaning.

Contradictory, the song could reflect the thoughts of a person giving up all hope, not fighting back because he truly believes he is too far gone. The narrator believes himself to be “already dead,” or not worthy of salvation, which is definitely a darker meaning to the song than I had originally thought.

Personally, I tend to focus on the higher meaning of a song. The pure empowerment the song radiates is encouraging, with talk about breaking the chains of an in-comprehensive society. Although the lyrics are literally screamed throughout the song, there is something beautiful about the message Hollywood Undead is sending across.

My favorite track on this album is “Nightmare,” without a doubt. The overall sound of the song is a great example of nu-metal with rapped verses and high-hat drums mixed with some metal-esque instrumentals and vocals.

The lyrics of “Nightmare” make me love it so much. It is absolutely beautifully written. Four of the six members of the band have their own verse in the song, each verse depicting their insecurities.

“Nightmare” felt like a glance into the mind of the members of Hollywood Undead, the depressing lyrics delivered like a punch in the gut. Singer and guitarist Danny Murillo expresses how the crushing weight of the world and all of its negativity keeps him up at night, claiming it to all be a part of his “nightmare.” The chorus of the song shows that even your favorite stars stay up at night, thinking about the gross realities of the messed-up world we live in today.

If there is one thing I will commend this band for it is for bringing attention to the fact that not all celebrities are always okay. The band clearly displays how sometimes even the people you idolize go through hard times and struggle with their own insecurities.

I will admit, going into this album I did not have high hopes. I was just expecting it to be another Hollywood Undead album where the band’s explicit lyrics deprive listeners of what would have been an outstanding song.

Fortunately, I was proven extremely wrong and the contents of “New Empire, Vol. 1” have more than exceeded my expectations. Hollywood Undead’s intention going into this new album was to rebrand themselves and build a “new empire,” and I believe they have done just that.

This story was originally published on The Prowler on February 23, 2020.