The 15-year mark of most band’s careers ought to be a milestone met with rollicking world tours, exclusive releases, and grateful reminiscing on the hedonistic joys of years gone by. For Hollywood Undead, however, their anniversary year has been more about musical celibacy than celebration. With live shows put on hold and releases delayed, it would have been all too easy for them to sink into the shadows and put their plans to bed. Not this band!

Back in February, Hollywood Undead released the first of a two-part opus, titled ‘New Empire’. It was their heaviest endeavour for some time, bringing with it, great guitar lines and eardrum-punishing choruses. Bookending the year, the band are back with the second instalment, ‘New Empire, Part 2’. With this new release, it becomes clearer than ever that, while there is still a great deal of revelry to be had with this record, it’s higher purpose has become one of promoting unity and the promise of better days to come again.

It’s tough these days
- Hollywood Undead

Not only is the music industry on the verge of total collapse for many artists, it’s also a completely different market, making it almost impossible for any band to last more than a couple of years. “It’s tough these days, though, to get funding for that kind of stuff, because there’s no MTV. None of those things exist anymore,” says Johnny 3 Tears speaking to about the struggles of artists securing funding for music videos and studio time. “This is our sound. One of the reasons I like it is because we can kind of do whatever we want, and get away. I would definitely say it’s held us back.”

With MTV a distant memory for showcasing alternative music, social media has taken over as the new promotional platform, however, it comes with a major headache for many artists. “I love your band but I don’t like this song” is a quote that Hollywood Undead read on a regular basis thanks to the two way street that is social media, giving every Joe Public an opportunity to share their often unwelcome opinion. “That blows my mind,” explains Charlie Scene, speaking to Sweetwater. “My favourite artists...I would never go up to them and say ‘I love your album but I don’t like that song’. People’s opinions are now just so...I don’t want to hear that I don’t care what your opinion is.”

There is collaboration in the most obtuse sense on the re-release of ‘Heart of a Champion’, which features vocal contributions from Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach and Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills. On a song that centres around finding your voice and harnessing your inner fire in a world of darkness, the myriad collection of vocals is as fist-pumpingly powerful as any could wish for. "Heart Of A Champion is about digging in deep when things appear at their worst. Finding the strength to overcome any and all odds against you," explains Johnny 3 Tears. When the three came together to film the music video for the track, Jacoby Shaddix commented that it was ‘like a reunion… Last time we all saw each other we were blowing the doors off a show in Germany 7 months ago." Music’s primary function has always been to bring people together, especially when it is needed most, and ‘New Empire: Part 2” does that on every level.

Still looking for a reason to put your hope in the staying power of music on this record? Well tenacity and ingenuity can also be found in each of the single’s guest vocalists respectively. Papa Roach too had an anniversary dampened this year – 20 years since their seminal album ‘Infest’, which included their landmark single ‘Last Resort’, was unleashed upon the world. In a music industry where fledgling careers can be crushed within a year, for a band to still be rocking stages across the globe to this day is a hugely commendable achievement. It proves that the power of resonant music is more than enough to weather the storms of the blurring of genres and the streaming revolution.

As far as individuality goes, you can’t get much more creative than Ice Nine Kills. Their gory horror iconography on their 2018 album ‘The Silver Scream’ and unforgettable rights battle with Disney has cemented the band as one of the most intrepid and enterprising metalcore acts out there. Marry that with Hollywood Undead’s uncompromising nature, as well as their venture back into the world of heavy breakdowns on this new record, and you have a trio who exude everything that is wonderful about modern metal. A year that has felt determined to keep us apart has produced art that brings together some of the very best voices in the metalcore sphere – how’s that for some derisive irony?

Yet there is also the sense of connection in that this dual-album release spans both sides of what has been the most confusing and terrifying few months for the music industry, and the world at large. In February, when Part 1 of ‘New Empire’ was unveiled, the world was a very different place. Songs about celebrating your triumphs like ‘Killin It’ and skyward gazing towards a better future on the likes of ‘Time Bomb’ felt riotous; they were destined to get crowds of people diving on top of each other, over barriers, and up walls. Now, those tracks feel as though they are from a bygone era.

That being said, ‘New Empire: Part 2’ doesn’t wallow in the misery that this year has been doling out. Captured perfectly in tracks like ‘Gonna Be OK’ is a sense of hope – that a return to the anarchic live shows of old – and indeed, just to some sense of normality - is now glimmering on the horizon. In tying these two albums together, both in name and in spirit, Hollywood Undead are here to remind us that happiness will come again. Collaboration will come again. Togetherness will come again.

If you’ve been looking for a record to instill the belief that music will make its return, then you’ve found it right here.

"New Empire: Volume 2" Out December 4th via BMG/Dove & Grenade Media ORDER HERE

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