One minute and thirty-four seconds into their new album, Papa Roach singer Jacoby Shaddix screams, "I'm ready to die for rock & roll!" So now you know where he stands. Where the band's last album showed some timely influences from Rage Against the Machine, Lovehatetragedy is full of more classic, timeless stylings. The self-determination mantra "Born With Nothing, Die With Everything," for instance, buckles and shreds until it accomplishes what all hard music aspires to: It sounds like a day at the sheet-metal shop. "Singular Indestructible Droid" would probably be a pretty standard-issue headbanger in someone else's hands, but the band adds some weird Native American chants, and Shaddix turns the words into an anthem, punctuating the "chorus" with bellows of "S.I.D.!" Steely though they may be, Papa Roach songs also tend to be sort of funky (that may have something to do with the fact that they are mostly written by bassist Tobin Esperance).
But the group's secret weapon is the way it so vividly captures the storms of confusion, anger and self-recrimination that swirl around inside a boy. That comes through with short, sharp and shocking guitar riffs, the almost autistically skull-smacking rhythms of the songs and especially with the words that Shaddix hollers over the metal scree. The title track seems like an epic suite of angst and hopelessness, but it's actually just over three minutes long and full of surprises. There's an apparent reference in the lyrics to 9/11, then a reverse zoom back inside the narrator's brain -- this is an ambitious literary trick, but what's more important is the sentiment we find when we return to the Papa Roach head: In only three lines, Shaddix goes from the macro to the micro, the political to the personal, when he sings, "It's sad it took war just to bring us together/I believe in love/I believe in forever." Underneath all the metal thunder and blitz, and the lyrics about pain and body bags, the only thing bleeding is Papa Roach's heart. The fact that they can express that even as they're rocking you like a Six Flags ride is what makes this band so singular and, possibly, indestructible.
(RS # 901 - July 2, 2002)
(Posted: Jul 2, 2002)