Just as Aristotle once said “one swallow does not a summer make“, likewise a good title does not an album make. F.E.A.R. (Face Everything And Rise) is Papa Roach’s eighth studio album and despite the powerful connotations of the record’s title, there is very little to rejoice within.
Papa Roach have continually evolved over time, not necessarily to fulfill their artistic desires, but to maintain their relevance in an increasingly unstable musical environment. Beginning as a nu metal band, they quickly shed their feathers to fit in with the new wave of emotionally-charged alternative rock, which permeated the mid-2000s after the demise of their former genre. Towards the latter part of the decade they once again transformed, placing their music well within the resurgence of hard rock, before 2012’s The Connection propelled the band towards the often hit-and-miss trend of electronic rock.
From the opening seconds of the new album it was clear to see what direction the band chose to take. Once again Papa Roach continue to tiptoe between electronic thrills and the safety of conventional rock music; afraid to take the leap completely into electronica, which has ultimately left the four-piece in musical limbo.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the record is the suppressive production, which has taken all the life out of the distorted guitars and made Jacoby Shaddix’s vocals fall limply across the over-polished musical backdrop. This is a genuine shame as there is potential littered across the record. Despite Broken As Me stealing the haunting two-note juxtaposition that made Rob Zombie’s Dragula the go-to rock party tune, it is actually a decent track, but it’s crunching guitar riff is barely given a chance to shine. Similarly, Falling Apart has all the right ingredients for a killer Papa Roch song: a great riff, a catchy chorus and a powerful message, yet it struggles to break away from its robotic execution and heavily processed vocals.
However, there are moments which are successful. Unsurprisingly it’s the beat-driven rap track, Gravity, that makes the biggest impact on the record. The song embraces their electronic temptations and returns to their roots with honest, if somewhat cliche, rapped verses, separated by memorable choruses. The only negative aspect is the appearance of Maria Brink, who gives an over-zealous performance akin to an amateur pantomime show. The other two stand-out tracks are Warriors and Face Everything And Rise, which similarly accept the electronic label. The former cleverly interweaves synth pulses and a bulldozer guitar sound into a less predictable song structure, whilst the latter is a high-octane thriller, showing what can be achieved if Papa Roach submerge themselves into the electronic genre.
Elsewhere the album fails to excite. Skeletons and Devil are completely anonymous and follow the tired format of slow verses and vaguely recognisable choruses; the very definition of filler. Add this to the pair of tepid ballad-esque tracks (Love Me Till It Hurts and Never Have To Say Goodbye) that saturate the middle of the album, and F.E.A.R. doesn’t leave you with much to look back on and enjoy after a complete listen.
It is clear to see that Papa Roach need to chose which direction they are taking the band. Currently their music is neither here-nor-there, staggering between a synth-driven sound that is producing their best moments and an overused alternative rock format that is dragging them down. Surely it’s about time they face electronica and rise.
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