Well this one came as a bit of a surprise, and in a very good way. Hellyeah’s first two albums were, at best, competent slabs of hard-edged American metal – the sort usually reserved for wrestler’s entrance music – that, considering the talent involved, were a bit lacking; lacking in focus and consistent songwriting, to be blunt. But it looks like the boys have come good with “Band Of Brothers”, their first album for new label Eleven Seven Music.
Whilst it would be incorrect to say that former Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul is the focal point of the band, it goes without saying that having a man with as much drive and inventiveness behind the kit as the Texan powerhouse would definitely be a selling point. Criminally underused on the band’s previous two albums, “Band of Brothers” sees Paul hammering the proverbial seven shades out of his drums like it was the early 90’s all over again, and it’s not just his recognisable playing style that has returned; producer Jeremy Parker (Mudvayne, Evanescence) has injected the band’s sound with a healthy dose of clarity and given Vinnie’s drums THAT sound; you know the one – that snappy punch to the gut that was the backbone of all of those monster albums from “Cowboys From Hell” through to “New Found Power”. Oh yes, you know the one…
But this isn’t the Vinnie Paul show. The other members of the band – singer Chad Gray (Mudvayne), guitarists Tom Maxwell (ex-Nothingface) and Greg Tribbett (Mudvayne) and bassist Bob Zilla (ex-Damageplan) – also step up to the plate, sounding like a coherent band that has a collective history to draw upon but are hungry to go out there and prove a point. Naturally, the Pantera and Damageplan comparisons are going to be all around this album but that shouldn’t be a negative thing. After all, the band’s first two albums got criticised for not sounding enough like that, and songs like the album’s brutal closer ‘What it Takes to Be Me’ wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for those bands.
Indeed, there are many songs here that come close to capturing that magic formula of clattering drums, chugging guitars and throat-ripping vocals. ‘War in Me’ is very reminiscent of ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’, whilst the one-two combo of ‘Rage/Burn’ and ‘Drink Drank Drunk’ throw a southern swagger thicker than a bison burger into the mix, the latter’s chorus of ‘Let’s Get Fucked Up – ‘Till We Fall Down!’ sure to be a live staple for the rest of their career.
It must be said, though, that whilst the tightening up of the band’s sound and the improved performance has done wonders for them, there are a couple of songs here that don’t quite hit the mark. Tracks like the by-the-numbers ‘Bigger God’ are quite forgettable, and whilst the ballad-esque ‘Between You and Nowhere’ has a nice dynamic, Chad Gray’s clean singing voice just doesn’t quite fit. However, those small gripes aside, “Band of Brothers” is an album worthy of the talents involved and – if you still purchase those shiny discs of joy – won’t seem out of place sat on your shelf alongside the best albums from the band members’ pasts. If you don’t purchase those shiny discs any more, then make a playlist – the songs will fit right in.