Shaddix and drummer Buckner started the group back in 1993 after a chat on the football field at Vacaville High School, where they were evidently more interested in hard rock than sports. Horton and original bassist Will James completed a quartet that was occasionally augmented by trombone but given that line of enquiry wasn’t likely to work they concentrated on a new sound with Esperance rooting the rhythm section.
The independently released Old Friends from Young Years followed in 1997 and a brace of EPs provided the bulk of Infest, the major label DreamWorks disc produced by Jay Baumgardner (Ugly Kid Joe, Helmet et al). Key tracks “Last Resort” and “Broken Home” are harrowing snapshots of Shaddix’s dysfunctional upbringing: disturbingly candid they struck a chord with a huge audience. Passionate, painful fragments of the wreckage were left in his wake: Shaddix insisted upon videos that didn’t flinch from the truth, as he knew it to be. The legend of Papa Roach had begun. The Fight Club influenced “Between Angels and Insects” stormed the UK and US charts and kick-started a relentless workload that led to lovehatetragedy, now featuring Brendan O’Brien at the controls; a notable coup since he has overseen important discs by everyone from The Black Crowes, Danzig and Red Hot Chilli Peppers to more old school acts – Mick Jagger, Neil Young and Bob Dylan.
A man with a keen ear for taut pop as well as sharply produced and brittle guitar sounds, O’Brien didn’t so much alter the process as refine it. As a result the domestic sturm und drang of “She Loves Me Not” and “Time and Time Again” added elements of rap to the metal mix. Check this out for instant discovery with Bonus tracks including the Pixies cover “Gouge Away”. Very well received on release this album gets better over time.
Getting Away With Murder (2004) starts to take Papa Roach into Sunset Strip hard rock territory though Shaddix’ lyrical concerns remain rooted in his overviews of war, economic corruption and state interference. Not much do-re-mi going on here.
The massive hit “Scars” has been prefaced by Jacoby as concerning “a horrible night in Vegas that changed my life” with nods at the Hannibal Lecter character in Thomas Harris’s iconic novel Red Dragon.
The Paramour Sessions keeps Papa Roach in league with producer Howard Benson, the title referencing the Paramour Mansion in Hollywood’s Silver Lake district, a historic estate (aka the Canfield-Moreno…) built for silent movie stars and oil heiresses. Sticking to their alternative rock template Papa Roach unleash their most accessible disc to date and “…To Be Loved” and “Forever” ushered in a bunch of newer, younger fans.
The DGC/Interscope issued Metamorphosis returned them towards Baumgardner, assisted by James Michael. New drummer Tony Palermo (ex-Ten Foot Pole/Unwritten Law/Pulley) slots in nicely with his fat kick drum attack. No sign of the Roach going soft here either. “Hollywood Whore”, the debauched “I Almost Told You That I Loved You” and the untypically optimistic “Lifeline” are all standouts. Try the UK edition for live in Chicago cuts and dig “Into the Light” for Mick Mars’ solo pyrotechnics.
Best of …To Be Loved: The Best of Papa Roach (a controversial item for the group but a very useful compendium for anyone wanting to play catch up) is followed by their first live album, Time for Annihilation: On the Record & On the Road (2010), a combo studio and tour set that wraps up a decade of Papa Roach in their pomp. The longer UK version adds further live and demo material, including a smouldering take on “Dead Cell”. If you want a full taste of the band in their past and present modes this is ideal for discovery since it has a bit, or maybe even a lot of everything they do.
The Connection and F.E.A.R. bring ‘em bang up to date on the Eleven Seven Music outlet. The Connection is about linking back to their inception and the values they held dear before the business intervened. The track “Still Swingin’” emphasises the rocker’s need for continuity while “Before I Die” is a frank expose of Shaddix’ own personal problems. Not for the faint of heart.
The triumphant second or third coming of Papa Roach gives F.E.A.R. its kick. Released in early 2015 this will see Shaddix hitting 40 head on, sober and with a newfound faith to underpin his determination to hold onto family life in the face of adversity. It might be a stretch to say that Jacoby has calmed down but he’s certainly wised up. You might also want to check him on Carlos Santana’s thrilling version of the Deep Purple classic “Smoke on the Water”, from Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time.
Whatever, F.E.A.R. is Papa Roach’s best selling disc in a while, partly thanks to the excellent hit “Face Everything and Rise”, a brand new start kind of song that maintains metallic momentum and lifts the spirits.
Twenty plus years since they recorded indy funk punk on a blue cassette tape these old friends from young years are ready to make your acquaintance again.
Words: Max Bell
Papa Roach's debut album Infest quietly became a Top 20 hit in the first half of 2000, slipping underneath the radar of most pop critics and fans. It's easy to see why the pop elite passed them by, since the quartet just isn't hip, and since they are pushing an amalgam of every heavy sound that was popular in the late '90s. Basically, Infest is pitched somewhere between the classic grunge/industrial of the early '90s with hints of late-'90s behemoths like Korn and Limp Bizkit. There's singing, but it's balanced by rapping, and the heavy riffs are run through effects boxes that give it the controlled distortion common to alt-metal; it's loud, but you can hear each note being articulated. Lyrically, there's a lot of angst here, directed at everyone from parents and society to themselves. Strangely, each member thanks their families and God in the liner notes, but that's sort of beside the point, since this has the form and feeling of angst-ridden, post-grunge, rap-riddled alt-metal. Is it good? Well, if you're not into this stuff, this won't change your mind, but the band does work up some energy, sounds pretty muscular on most of the album, and has some good hooks, even if they tend to overplay their hand by throwing too many hooks into the riffs or screaming just a bit to much. Still, that's par for the course with alt-metal. So, it winds up that Papa Roach doesn't really distinguish itself from the pack in terms of sound, but they do stand out in terms of capability and consistency. Infest is a pretty solid alt-metal record, circa 2000, both for better and worse. It's a little generic, yes, but as far as the genre goes, it's not bad.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Within the context of its times, lovehatetragedy is a gamble of sorts, as Papa Roach abandons their affiliation with rock/rap fusion (except for one highly effective moment on "She Loves Me Not") and hies back to their original pure metal- and punk-inflected hard rock stance. Lead singer Coby Dick certifies the change by reverting to his birth name, Jacoby Shaddix, but in other respects his performance sticks to its formula of gut-busting delivery and lyrics whose candor can get a little embarrassing. (On "Decompression Period," for instance, he essentially tells his band as well as his beleaguered wife that he's sick of being around them.) A few tracks, most notably "Singular Indestructible Droid," struggle toward metaphor, with mixed results. What can't be denied is that Shaddix's woes connect directly to a large and equally confused audience, and that nobody this side of Kurt Cobain communicates them with as much power. As always, his message rides a turbulent current of guitar/bass riffs whose militaristic precision only enhances their intensity.
Words: Robert L. Doerschuk
Having long ago dumped the tired rap-rock format of their early work, Papa Roach continues attempting to reinvent the hard rock wheel on 2006's The Paramour Sessions. Unfortunately, while the band seems to be aiming for Mötley Crüe's Theatre of Pain, the results sound something more akin to a nu-metal version of Loverboy's Keep It Up. These are boisterous, brash, and in-yo-face tracks that really want to convince you they have the goods. And sure, the band does evince a kind of Technicolor, Sunset Strip club, cocaine-line-on-a-Marshall-stack vibe, but mostly the songs just ain't there. Admittedly, "The World Around You" has a catchy chorus and "Time Is Running Out" is a suitably anthemic pop tune. However, while Papa Roach makes a lot of gestures toward rock & roll suicide on The Paramour Sessions, the album ends up being a lot like lead singer Jacoby Shaddix's confession of "I've got a jet black heart, it's all f*cked up and it's falling apart" on "...To Be Loved." It sounds a lot cooler than it actually is.
Words: Matt Collar
Howard Benson, Chris Lord-Alge, Papa Roach. It's gotten to the point where you can fill in the last name with another combo of mascara-eyed angry men jockeying for position in the bubbling ooze of the post-rap-rock (yes, that's a term) universe. Producer Benson and mixer Lord-Alge are professionals both, masters of compression and punching up the radio mix. This is what they offer Papa Roach -- a promise that the band's Getting Away with Murder will sound both raging and properly marketable. To that end, "Not Listening" rewrites the 2001 Roach hit "Last Resort" without the rap, while the big title-track single is built around a mechanistic Korn bass throb and a carnival funhouse lead guitar line. (The better to scare you with, see.) On the latter, Jacoby Shaddix (the name change still stands) incorporates the affected whisper, the vengeful yell, and the vague lyrical cocktail of depression and S&M ("I'm a glutton for your punishment/You're the master/And I'm waiting for disaster"). Fill in the bruised blanks. His railing against alcoholism in the bashing, amplified rocker "Be Free" (as well as throughout the album) does seem genuine. But still, it's off-putting how much Shaddix sounds like Trent Reznor. Seriously, where's Papa Roach inside Getting Away with Murder's production and brand positioning? "Scars" is a midtempo power ballad of sorts, again about the ills of drinking; with tweaking it would fit on a Good Charlotte album. Album opener "Blood" (Empty Promises)" does suggest the harder screeds of 2002's lovehatetragedy, but it doesn't go far enough, and that tense edge is dulled by repetitive glowering ("I lit my pain on fire/And watched it all burn down!") and muddled genre posturing once the album fully starts. With Getting Away with Murder, Papa Roach offer fans of this sound an appropriately hard (yet painstakingly layered -- thanks Howard and Chris!) punch in the face. But there's a hollow sound as the bones collapse, because all that's supporting it is expensive art direction and a big scaffold of clichés. If your scream sounds like everyone else's, does anyone really hear it?
Words: Johnny Loftus
At the dawn of the decade, Papa Roach were one of many angst-ridden, tattooed alt-metal bands who mixed in rap with their grim guitars. At the close of the 2000s, the quartet has shed the rap and the angst, ditching all the alt-metal accoutrements to become a knowing update of an '80s Sunset Strip sleaze rock outfit. This is indeed the Metamorphosis hinted at in the title of their fifth album, and while it's possible to debate whether this transformation was inspired by creative or commercial motivations, there is no denying one key fact: Papa Roach may be all about parties now but they're still kind of grim. Maybe it's down to the decision to bring back producer Jay Baumgardner, who helmed their 2000 debut, Infest, but Metamorphosis has a dire determination to its purported good times, its riffs grinding instead of greasy, its rhythms clenched where they should be loose. While Papa Roach is a long long way from the depths of Hinder -- that decade of work does give the band a professional snap, plus it never quite seems that Jacoby Shaddix's heart is into slagging that "Hollywood Whore" he berates on the album's first single -- they miss the whole point of this kind of rock & roll raunch: it should be more fun to listen to than it is to take out on the road.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Papa Roach's seventh studio album, The Connection, finds the California band finally striking a balance between its early roots as a nu-metal/rap-rock outfit and its more recent interest in '80s-style Sunset Strip hard rock. Featuring production from Sixx: A.M. frontman James Michael as well as Goldfinger's John Feldmann, The Connection includes some creatively slick sounds that flow from buzzy, processed distortion to pulsating, atmospheric electronic flourishes. In some ways, The Connection is perhaps the band's most contemporary-sounding album, though it still remains reverent to the nu-metal sound of the late '90s when it comes down to the overall feel of each tune. In that sense, this disc fits well next to the works of similarly inclined nu-metal journeymen -- such as Incubus, Filter, and Linkin Park -- who've found ways to adapt their sound to an ever-changing pop landscape. Still centered around the high-energy yawp of vocalist Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach are never at a loss for something to shout about, and The Connection is no exception. Here, we get the anthemic statement of purpose "Still Swingin," which features Shaddix flexing his rap muscles, as well as the similarly defiant rocker "Give Me Back My Life." Elsewhere, Papa Roach delve into cinematic electronic balladry with the passionate "Before I Die" and the equally as yearning "Leader of the Broken Hearts." Of course, there are also plenty of straightforward electric guitar rock cuts here, and tracks like the fiery "Where Did the Angels Go," "Breathe You In," and "Not That Beautiful" should definitely appeal to the band's more belligerent, fist-pumping fan base.
Words: Matt Collar
The ninth studio album from California's Papa Roach, 2015's F.E.A.R. finds the journeyman hard rock outfit delivering more of its bombastic, high-energy sound. F.E.A.R. was produced by Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch) with assistance from his son Kane Churko, and the album's title is an acronym that stands for "Face Everything And Rise." The dark, aggressive irony behind this sentiment remains consistent with the angry, angst-ridden tone that the band has been narrowly hitting for almost two decades, telegraphing from the first moment of the title track that this is not a record intended to win new listeners, but it should please longtime fans of the group. Since breaking out in the late '90s along with a bevy of other nu-metal and rap-rock bands, Papa Roach have displayed a surprising amount of staying power. In the mid-2000s, the group abandoned the rap end of its sound to explore a more traditional hard rock style. It's an approach they've largely stuck with, saving their hip-hop inclinations for the occasional album track. But here, Jacoby Shaddix delves headlong into rap on "Gravity," a mid-album standout that also features a strikingly effective guest vocal from In This Moment frontwoman Maria Brink. Elsewhere, Papa Roach stick to their densely tattooed, heavily compressed guns on such hard-hitting numbers as "Broken as Me," "Warriors," and "Hope for the Hopeless," in which Shaddix sings "I'm counting all my bruises/I'm not counting on myself." Ultimately, it's just this kind of self-flagellating, dark-hued rock aesthetic that's worked for Papa Roach for well over a decade, and despite whatever passing styles or trends in pop music they've ignored in the process, it's a sound that seems to be working for them.
Words: Matt Collar