Duality has been a common theme in the modern rock scene as of late (See: Set It Off’s newest album of the same name). In this day & age where music is more easily accessed in downloadable files than in record stores bands are realizing how crucial making a connection with the fans is.
Papa Roach, who have been around now for over 20 years, made their last album ‘The Connection’ based off leveling with their fanbase and letting them know they wouldn’t have gotten this far without them. The album was a hit, and now returning 2 years later the band have followed up ‘The Connection’ in the most natural way possible – by making the darkest, most intimate & personal record of their career in the form of ‘F.E.A.R.’.
When you think of the word ‘fear’, positivity doesn’t exactly come to mind which is why turning the phrase ‘Face Everything And Rise’ into a darkly disguised acronym is a clever way to introduce the listener to the balance that the record possesses. Not only is ‘F.E.A.R.’ the heaviest album Papa Roach have ever put out, it can also be seen as one of the most inspired. Vocalist/lyricist Jacoby Shaddox wrote down many of his most personal struggles, be it coping with death, relationship struggles or how difficult it is to be persistent in everyday life, to represent the album’s intimate nature. Not only does this represent growth, it’s also the next step of connecting with the large fanbase who undoubtedly are anticipating the release of this record.
There’s no doubt that those fans will enjoy ‘F.E.A.R.’ either. The commercial direction of the songwriting still remains, and the first 5 tracks on the album especially will garner radio play with their catchy hooks and energy, but the underlying somber vibe gives this album in particular a different feel than previous Papa Roach albums. The electronics aren’t used to drive the song forward, instead they provide atmosphere (similar to fellow hard rockers RED). The riffs are weightier and more rhythmic and the drums hit harder. This is very much still Papa Roach with familiar elements retained but used in different ways than in the past. Due to this ‘F.E.A.R.’ ends up feeling like the band’s biggest leap forward since ‘Metamorphisis’.
Certain tracks showcase this new direction better than others, notably the bombastic opening title track, the creeping grooves of “Skeletons”, rap ballad “Gravity” (featuring In This Moment’s Maria Brink in an especially vulnerable bridge) and energetic closer “Warriors”. There are no true ‘filler’ tracks to speak of, but the fact that all 10 songs are mostly mid-paced may wear on the listener more than it should. The few tempo changes that do occur are a bit too conventional to make a huge difference but none of the songwriting falls flat. Slight touches of melody in a song like “Falling Apart” go a long way towards representing the sonic duality of the record.
All in all ‘F.E.A.R.’ does a great job at being a Papa Roach album – familiar, catchy and straight-forward. This isn’t the raw anger of ‘The Paramour Sessions’ nor the rap rock of ‘Infest’. Instead this album is decidedly modern, in its atmospheric mix and chunkier guitars. This is a pretty safe rock release but there’s no doubt that Papa Roach will continue to please hard rock fans and fill arenas with this solid new material in tow.