Is there really anybody out there who hasn’t heard of Papa Roach by now? Unless you’ve been hibernating under a rock for nearly two decades, the chances are that you have, and you’ve probably got a copy of 2000’s nu metal juggernaut, Infest, collecting dust somewhere on your CD shelf. But herein lies the issue – will the large numbers of fans prefer to remember this Californian band in all their impertinent angst and vitriol-spitting glory, or does the need for musical growth simply outweigh the nostalgia?
Twenty-three years into a turbulent career later, it should be no surprise that Papa Roach have moved beyond the rap-metal that essentially propelled them to the forefront of the scene. After years of much-publicised substance abuse issues, not to mention the departure of longterm drummer Dave Buckner, the release of 2012’s The Connection marked a new chapter, both in sound and on a personal level, for a then newly sober frontman Jacoby Shaddix. The subsequent move to Eleven Seven Music two years later and label debut F.E.A.R. was indicative of a band trying to push the boundaries; the trademark arena sized choruses remained, but these now sat alongside driving synths and electronic beats. And with a Furlong/Brittain production team whose artist rosters include Maroon 5 and Demi Lovato, hardcore supporters may just consider album number nine their last resort.
Granted, the producers are known for favouring rhythms more associated with reggae than traditional metal, but their constant exposure to Infest as kids inspired them, and in turn the band, to rekindle that once white-hot fury. While undeniably more ‘old school’ in parts than F.E.A.R., Crooked Teeth also shifts the quartet ever closer towards a more alt-rock sound that gleams with melodic sheen. Opener Break The Fall, along with the following title track and My Medication, are tried’n’true Papa Roach – bursting with colossal hooks, razor sharp riffs, gang shouts and the venomous rap-rock vocals of Jacoby leading the frontline. His hushed tones of ‘Everybody’s looking at me, staring at me. Everybody’s looking at me’ are eerily reminiscent of hits like Getting Away With Murder and Between Angels And Insects, but the dabbles with electronica help bridge the gap between the past and present. Recent single Help melds catchy licks with emotional catharsis, whilst the war-cry thump of Born For Greatness is sonic Marmite; you’ll either loathe those odd pop-tinged motifs or love how oddly infectious they are. Unfortunately, the preceding fire is extinguished moving into the latter half; the hip hop/rock mashup Sunrise Trailer Park is more grit-your-teeth than gritty, and both American Dream and Periscope – a duet with singer/songwriter Skylar Grey – walk a fine line between achingly pedestrian and utterly arduous. The welcome exception comes in the form of ballad-cum-bruiser Traumatic, those frenzied Drowning Pool-meets-Dope shouts (‘It’s so traumatic, I’ve got these secrets I keep!’) seething with nu metal flavours. Crooked Teeth may be more radio-ready than a rage against the machine, but it remains true to their core.