If you’ve come here to ask “what would a Papa Roach album sound like in 2022?” well, you’ve come to the right place. With the band’s 30th anniversary fast-approaching next year, there’s no denying just how much talent this collective possesses. Since the release of their breakthrough single, “Last Resort,” they have seen more and more success, regardless of how many pitfalls they’ve experienced over the years. 5 major label deals, 10 studio albums and placement in every single form of media you can think of, the band is ready to take it back to their roots. With the announcement of their 11th studio album, Ego Trip, they also announced that they were partnering with ADA Worldwide for a distribution deal under their own label, New Noize which would afford them many opportunities to take things into their own hands. Not only that but it allows them far more creative control than they’ve had in quite some time. What does that mean for the sound? If you’re reading this and you think that Jacoby Shaddix and Co aren’t bringing the angst, the flavor and the attitude 29 years later… you’ll be glad to know that you’re wrong. Heavy on the attitude, the title of this album is quite fitting so let’s dive in and find out why.
The band’s first single, “Swerve” embraces current trends of artists like Jeris Johnson, Sueco the Child, Corpse and Kim Dracula who got their start on TikTok. This trip-hop, rap/rock approach is, by no means, something new to Papa Roach but fits in perfectly with much of what is hitting the radio these days. The message is simple – don’t cross us and you won’t get dealt with. The band is known for writing catchy hooks, relatable lyrics and even drum beats that’ll have you drumming on your dashboard. Admittedly, however, some of the best work that Shaddix does is when he embraces his “inner gangster” because his level of confidence and cockiness (at least within his music) is what makes who he is as an artist. Two guests make themselves heard with Jason Aalon Butler (Fever 333/ex-Letlive) in the beginning of the track and Sueco coming in later with a more chilled-out, lower vocal range. This track, admittedly, had to grow on this reviewer but once you embrace it for what it is, not taking it too seriously (and realizing that the band wasn’t either) you can see why it stands out. Of course, the other singles “Stand Up,” “Cut the Line” and “Kill the Noise” all manage to do the same but they don’t have to grow as much. Something that can be said for this group is that they’re anything but predictable at this point in their careers. While “Swerve” definitely shows some of that exploration, it’s but the tip of the iceberg.
“What’s this weird jungle beat in my headphones?” you might ask yourself when you hear “Liar” kick in but just wait. While Shaddix does his signature pseudo-rap passages throughout the verses of the track, it’s the chorus that will leave your head spinning. The band kicks in, heavily driven by the drum beat and there is something theatrical that jumps out in the vocal and you find yourself transported into an entirely different realm. This is, what I would imagine, a song co-written by Bert McCracken (The Used) would sound like. In fact, it sounds like it could fit perfectly on the band’s Lies for the Liars album. It speaks of the struggle within to maintain being a “good guy,” with all of the bad in the world. Every second, there is something within that hungers to get out and decimate everything in it’s path. He speaks of the “secrets” and the “skeletons” in his closet that are threatening to reveal themselves, if the truth isn’t revealed. This track is bouncy, fun and has a very dark sound while remaining true to subject matter that has always been present within their music. “Unglued,” which I’ll speak a little bit more about later on, is a song that follows this same type of sound.
The title track, “Ego Trip” brings more attitude and arrogance in the lyrics and vocal than has been seen in a long time. While everyone who has met Shaddix knows that he remains humble, his music speaks different and the way he approaches it is where the ego takes over. “Never get high on your own supply” is a reference to having too much pride and arrogance show through and what it can do to an artist. However, every artists knows that if you don’t put egointo certain parts of your art, the music scene will eat you alive. This one has a punk rock vibe to it, both in the lyrical content and the instrumentals leading up to the chorus. When the pre-chorus kicks in, it gets an alternative metal feel and then leads into a bass-heavy, bouncy, earworm chorus. No stranger to dual language songs, Shaddix heads into the bridge with a Spanish-language part that lends to the subject matter of the track. Roughly translating to “My name is Jacoby. I’m so crazy, the ego is not my friend” reminding one of the damage that can be caused when you allow your ego to take control.
“Dying to Believe” is surely going to be a fan-favorite, with it’s acoustic intro and EDM-infused chorus. This track is, by all accounts, one of those that continues to see Papa Roach successful over the years. A soaring chorus, infused with EDM flavor, pseduo-rap passages and glitched vocals with relatable lyrics this track stands out, to me, much more than most on this album. The big surprise is in the bridge, though, which contains a breakdown and screams of “You say all hope is gone but I say you’re dead wrong!” This is a track that signals urgency to the fact that, for the most part, we are all the same. It’s a reminder that we bleed the same blood and that society needs to embrace the differences of one another and learn to love, rather than hate each other. With my first listen-through of this album, I’d find myself having this song on repeat. The production value is huge, the instruments have so much room to breathe and compliment the vocal so well. However, it’s the simplicity in the instrumental calling itself out but yet feeling refreshing, that really pulls me in with the lyrics.
Now we have to get emotional because Shaddix has a habit of really pulling you into with tracks like “Leave a Light On.” There is a heaviness to this track that can’t be ignored, an air of loss or of losing someone close. While that is definitely a focal point of the lyrical content of this particular track, they do a great job of displaying it in a way that it’s about so much more than that. That air of loss, of sadness, turns to one of hope as Shaddix sings to the listener, to his fans, to let them know that he is there for them if things get rough. This is definitely one that will people be ugly crying while singing. I see this being a heavy crowd favorite, “throw your lighters in the air” type of song on a live front… and undoubtedly that air will be heavier in that setting.
The beginning and ending tracks to an album are always the most crucial to creating a truly cohesive album. How the album kicks off sets the scene, how it ends wraps up everything that encompasses what the album is trying to say and should leave you begging for more. “Kill the Noise” amps up the energy and really gets the listener invested in wanting to listen to the rest of the album. “I Surrender,” which closes out Ego Trip, is one of those tracks that blends together each element of the album beautifully. While there is some theatricality to the track, as well as that emotion and angst we’ve come to love from the quartet over the years. It’s a reminder of just how they can wrap pain, hope and light into a song that has a darker tone. It’s a reminder of how cohesive the band is, and has been, over the years, fluidly and effortlessly complimenting one another with each note. Moreover, it has one of the most beautiful choruses on the album.
Ego Trip is everything you’d want from a Papa Roach album. Whether it’s the old-school, “Coby Dick” rock/rap sound you want, the radio-friendly or (like most of us) the emotion, angst and message that they’ve carried.. this album has something for everyone. The fact that they managed to release an album that is so impactful, so experimental and yet so crucial in the year 2022 is a statement to where they stand in the music scene. Explosive, filled with twists and turns, this album will leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more. The band recently celebrated the release in an unconventional way (at Shakey’s Pizza on Santa Monica Blvd) where they were joined by Jeris Johnson (who performed their “Last Resort Reloaded”) single with them and gave credence to the age-old meme of “Cut my life into pizza.” 30 years later, the band still has everything it takes to pull you in and remind fans why they are here in the first place. Purchase/Stream Ego Trip using the links below as well as the videos for “Swerve,” “Cut the Line” and “Kill the Noise.” The band is set to tour with Highly Suspect later this month and then a number of Summer festivals which can all be found at this link.