“Notes From the Underground” is one of the albums that I was most excited for of 2013, right up there with part two of Coheed & Cambria’s The Afterman: Descension. The two singles, “We Are” and “Dead Bite” (Which was actually on my top 10 songs of 2012), only served to increase my anticipation for the album. Both were excellent songs, and I must say, the album doesn’t disappoint. Though it;s their shortest album, it is also Hollywood Undead’s best to date, as of the album’s eleven songs, there is only one that I really don’t like.
It’s really fun to listen to Hollywood Undead’s three (or four, if you count their independent debut) albums in chronological order. While Swan Songs, which was my favorite for a long time, consists of a bunch of party songs and two or three songs that are actually serious, American Tragedy is different. There’s about an even mix between the two, and, musically, American Tragedy wasn’t as good. I like about half the album, but most of it fell flat on it’s face, mostly because everything on there that wasn’t a party song (Excluding “Hear Me Now”, “Glory”, and “Been to Hell) was utter garbage.
But Notes From the Underground proves that Hollywood Undead are actually at their best when they’re being (relatively) serious. The album is a lot darker, and a lot more mature, than the band’s previous releases. And because of that, it harbors some of their best songs. Sure, my favorite is still Swan Songs’ “Undead”, but I love almost everything on Notes From the Underground.
Surprisingly, there are only two party songs, and the only song I don’t album, “Pigskin”, is one of them. It seems ridiculously out of place on a much more serious album. Plus, as much as I love Funny Man, the rapping on this song seems a little two mainstream – as if Hollywood Undead were making an attempt to break into the mainstream. Charlie Scene is as hilarious as ever on this song, but that’s probably the only part of the song that I want. The background music is a terrible beat, that really doesn’t fit the mood of the song. I guess that people who are bigger fans of rap could enjoy this song, but I just don’t like it much. The other party song, “Up in Smoke” is significantly better. the beginning is, admittedly, a little ridiculous, but after that, it becomes a pretty good song. Charlie Scene is hilarious, but there’s no surprise there. It still feels a little out of place on Notes From the Underground, but, on the whole, it’s a good song.
Notes From the Underground is also their heaviest album yet, which I love. J-Dog, who is the reason that the band dabbles in metal, has a different, but awesome take on it. Gone are the pounding synths of American Tragedy, replaced by heavy guitar riffs. “From the Ground” is easily the band’s heaviest song (With the exception, of, maybe, “Been to Hell”), and is actually quite similar to “Glory”. It has a great piano intro, and then an excellent guitar riff. The chorus is reminiscent of “My Town”, and the chorus of that song was the only part of it that I liked. But J-Dog’s screams, his rapping, and Charlie Scene’s guitar work are all excellent, and are what really make this song.
Another testament to this being Hollywood Undead’s heaviest album is “Kill Everyone”, a track almost entirely devoted to Charlie Scene singing about losing it. The great guitar riffs are back in this song, similar to “From the Ground”. And then there’s “Another Way Out”, which is a pretty heavy song as well. More than anything else on the album, this song mixes rock and rap to create one of the album’s standout tracks.
Both of the singles, “We Are” and “Dead Bite” are excellent on the album. “We Are” is probably Hollywood Undead’s most powerful song. It’s about a disenfranchised youth, similar to “Young”, though, on the whole, a much better song. The lyrics are written a lot better (For example, the chorus: “We are, we are, we are made from broken parts, we are, we are, we are broken from the start”), and the music is also really good. This is probably the biggest example of Hollywood Undead’s departure from their party-rock roots. “Dead Bite”, on the other hand, is a horror song about, well, the undead. It’s probably the most fun song on the album, featuring the intro of “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the dead bite” and some of Charlie Scene’s best – and funniest – work ever. The industrial-like sound is almost reminiscent of Rammstein, and I have no reason to complain about that.
Meanwhile, “Lion”, “Rain”, and “Outside” are all extremely dark, gritty songs. “Lion” is a more toned down song about falling apart, and the lyrics are pretty dark. “Forgive me if I say you can hide beneath the covers while I hide from the pain” and ‘Forget about tomorrow, tomorrow is today” are just two examples of lines form the song. “Rain” is the darkest song on the album. One of my favorite lines is “Some will die too late, and some will die too soon”. It’s a song about depression, and feeling useless. “I am just a shape in the shadow of greats” and “And just like a light, we faded away.” The song is extremely dark and gritty, and it’s an excellent song as a result. Charlie Scene is at his most solemn – ever – in this song, and he’s surprisingly good at it. The album’s final track, “Outside” is another dark song, about being cast out. The band’s writing talent is again showcases here, especially in my favorite line, “Who left me outside, I’m bent I’m not broken”. All three songs are made much better by the use of the music. The music in all three creates an atmosphere of despair and suffering, and, as a result, all three are stellar.
And then there’s “Believe”, which is the exact opposite of those three songs. It’s about finding the good parts of yourself, and the lyrics are great. However, Danny should stick to choruses. He does do an alright job on the verse in this song, but his choruses are undoubtedly better.
Throughout the album, the band time and time again proves their talent as musicians. Funny Man, J3T, and J-Dog have some of their best lines yet. Charlie Scene’s guitar work is great, proving that sometime less is more. He’s also as funny as ever. Da Kurlzz, while he doesn’t do many screams, does do some great percussion work. And, though I wasn’t his biggest fan in American Tragedy, I feel that Danny has more than filled the void that Deuce left. Despite the album’s single dud, “Pigskin”, Notes From the Underground is filled with excellent song after excellent song. Notes From the Underground proves that a more mature Hollywood Undead is a better Hollywood Undead. I can see this album remaining high in my most play ed for quite a while, and being one of the best albums of the year.