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HellYeah - "Stampede" (CD)

HellYeah - "Stampede" CD cover image

"Stampede" track listing:

1. Cowboy Way
2. Debt That All Men Pay
3. Hell Of A Time
4. Stampede
5. Better Man
6. It's On!
7. Pole Rider
8. Cold As A Stone
9. Stand Or Walk Away
10. Alive And Well
11. Order The Sun

Reviewed by on August 12, 2010

"When the band is working on all cylinders, there's damn fine post-Pantera metal to be had here."

As was true with the band's self-titled debut album, part of the secret to enjoying HellYeah's "Stampede" is in managing the expectations created by the band's all-star pedigree. Once you figure out that this is less of a "supergroup" and more just five famous guys having fun making music, it's a little easier to just sit back and enjoy the ride — though there are some pretty big bumps in the road this time.

Part of the joy of listening to a supergroup is the anticipation that all of its members are going to bring the full force of the formula that made them famous. But, for every Blind Faith or Temple of the Dog, there's a Mad Season — a band in which the styles are diluted rather than enhanced. Unfortunately, that's the case with HellYeah — particularly drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, whose groove defined Pantera, but is quite restrained here. Of course, part of that may lie in the fact that guitarists Greg Tribbett (of Mudvayne) and Tom Maxwell (of Nothingface) sometimes give him little to work with, and bassist Bob Zilla might as well not be there on some tracks.

That's not to say that there isn't a lot of fun to be had with this album. When the band is working on all cylinders, there's damn fine post-Pantera metal to be had here. The opener, "Cowboy Way," for example, leaps out of the gate with a great crunchy riff and some decent speed. Some have criticized the band's emphasis on country lyrical themes, but given that singer Chad Gray owns a home in my neck of the woods (he's in Klamath Falls, Oregon), I can safely say that there's plenty of shit-kickin' going on where he lives, even if it's not strictly a Southern locale. Sure, the "Pantera fan club" references are pretty thick (the old "blacktooth grin" drink gets name-checked, and the song feels a bit like a sequel to "Cowboys From Hell"), but it isn't obnoxious about it.

"Debt That All Men Pay" is another great groover, with Vinnie Paul delivering one of his best performances at the kit. I also like the heaviness of the riff.

Unfortunately, the disc loses all of its momentum with the slower, country-tinged "Hell Of A Time." The song doesn't work as either country or metal — and this is coming from a guy whose CD collection is jam-packed with Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It seems to be trying for a "Rebel Meets Rebel" feel. Who knows, maybe it would have worked better had Vinnie gotten his old buddy David Allen Coe on the line and had him sing it.

The disc comes rumbling back to life with "Stampede," though the riff is a little by-the-numbers. Unfortunately, it once again loses its footing with "Better Man," a ballad that, right down to the drum part, feels like a carbon copy of Metallica's "Unforgiven."

"It's On!" is a nice, aggressive tune, with a hell of a beginning, and some great stop-and-start moments. Then, it's another speed bump of a song, with the silly stripper ode "Pole Rider."

Fortunately, the last four songs dispense with the silliness and commence with the Pantera-style rocking. "Cold As A Stone" is full of grinding riffs, while the lighter "Stand Or Walk Away" has Gray's best clean vocals.

"Alive And Well" is Pantera-by-the-numbers, and that's definitely a good thing. Vinnie drives this song in a way that harkens back to "Vulgar Display Of Power," with superb fills. The closer, "Order The Sun," keeps this vibe going, with Gray howling over guttural riffs.

The production on "Stampede" is OK, if a tiny bit on the high side. A little more bass would've probably helped this album swing more.

HellYeah may be a "supergroup," but they have yet to produce a super album. Still, "Stampede" does more right than wrong, and when the band really gets it in gear, there are moments of greatness.

Highs: "Cowboy Way," "Alive And Well," "Debt That All Men Pay" and "It's On!"

Lows: "Hell Of A Time," "Pole Rider" and "Better Man."

Bottom line: A mostly fun album in the Pantera mode, but this supergroup has yet to create a super album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)