Album Review: Hollywood Undead – Empire Vol. 1

Hollywood Undead New Empire, Vol. 1

The great writer J.D. Salinger once said,
“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection,
and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”

Written off by several music critics as untalented and a MySpace gimmick since their debut album Swan Songs was released in 2008, Hollywood Undead are the epitome of doing it on their terms. The band itself has been around since 2005, starting off by shopping around the album they recorded on their own and finally signing to a label who wouldn’t censor them or their music. Even censored by radio, the band has continued to garner a large following and airplay by successfully combining rock, industrial and rap elements, as well as EDM into their songs, with each album easily cracking the top 25 when released.

Hollywood Undead (l-r) Funny Man, Charlie Scene, Danny Murillo, Johnny 3 Tears, J-Dog (center). Photo credit: ©Darren Craig. Photo provided by BMG, All Rights Reserved.

Since Hollywood Undead unleashed themselves upon the planet, they have released 4 EP’s and 5 full length studio albums. The quintets latest long awaited 6th album, New Empire Vol. 1, is due out on February 14th featuring 9 new tracks, and is easily their best to date. It’s hard to imagine that when they first started, they were just barely into their 20’s creating songs about girls, drinking and drugs. But now a more mature, more seasoned Hollywood Undead has emerged. With the band reinventing themselves, the members currently in their mid to late 30’s with families of their own, moving away from the more pop/dance influence to a harder edged sound, all while still keeping with their own style. If you were holding out hope that the band would continue to sing more poppy songs about “bitches and 40’s”, that version of Hollywood Undead is seemingly packed away. But don’t worry, the band hasn’t sold their soul and cleaned themselves up lyrically for more radio-friendly airplay.

Danny Murillo, J-Dog, Funny Man, Johnny 3 Tears and Charlie Scene leadoff New Empire Vol. 1 with “Time Bomb”, and immediately you are hit in the face with this new direction that the band has taken lyrically. HU reintroduces their audience to the aggressive heavy guitar riffs and the industrial influenced bass and drums, all the while retaining their own style. This song, in particular, covers a wide array of social issues and pressures that people face today. With such lyrics, “Fuck the trendsetters, social pressure’s the enemy. Someone else’s life is becoming your identity.” Pointing out how people today tend to always have this fear of missing out, wanting to keep up with social “influencers”. “Heart of a Champion” has an excellent steady driving beat behind it, as “Enemy” has a heavy punk feel that I love. “Killing It” and “Nightmare” are more geared towards rap, with plenty of drum machine, bass and synth behind strong lyrics, with “Nightmare” having a bit of an Eminem vibe/feel to it. Hands down, my favorite song is “Empire”. One of the catchiest on the entire album, it features a good chunk of synth with a dash of EDM. “Upside Down” is a very close second on my list of favorites on this new release, and also featured Kellin Quinn from Sleeping With Sirens. HU may not win any awards lyrically, but they didn’t shy away from getting straight to the point. “Not even God can save me now. I’ve lived this life so upside down. If I could turn back the hands of time, I’d never try to change my fate ’cause it made me who I am today.” “Second Chances” features Benji Madden from Good Charlotte and is a solid all-around rock song that will be sure to be a radio favorite if released as a single.

Overall the album is a massive step for this band on a maturity and social awareness level. They’ve shed some skin from their past, covering more mature topics all the while still retaining their own identity and taking this big step forward. They have started to reflect on more sophisticated issues that are going on in the world today. The album is well worth picking up for new and old HU fans alike.

Time Bomb
Heart of a Champion
Already Dead
Killin It
Upside Down
Second Chances

Hollywood Undead Online:
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Born in Scotland, raised in the United States, based in Chicago. Ian Bardecki is a professional photographer, avid motorcyclist, reader, IT geek, gaming and comic book nerd, who was bathed in music at a young age by his mother who constantly played classical piano in their home. While she also introduced him to the Beatles and Elvis, his father forced on him Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, the local paper boy had him listening to Alice Cooper, his uncle then turned him onto KISS and his first 8 track tape, while his friends turned him onto punk music. Today, his music library ranges from Amadeus Mozart to ZZ Ward and everything in between. Hesitantly agreeing to fill in one night to photograph a concert at a local venue in San Francisco for a friend, was where the accidental love and passion for concert photography was born and hasn’t stopped growing since. As a freelance photographer, Ian has had the honor of working with various artists like, John 5, Sick Puppies, Scott Stapp, Drowning Pool, Anti-Flag and Art of Dying, just to name a few. Ian can be found on Instagram and Facebook under Center Stage Pictures.