Fear can sometimes be the best fuel. It pushes us into the unknown, makes us aware, and reminds us we're alive. Embracing that mindset, Papa Roach transformed the word itself into a mantra for the title of their eighth full-length album, F.E.A.R. [Eleven Seven Music]. The Grammy Award-nominated, multi-platinum hard rock juggernaut builds its most infectious, invigorating, and incendiary body of work to date. They preserve the robust riffs and swaggering rhythms that marked their initial call-to-arms, while seamlessly infusing cinematic electronic flourishes, sweeping hooks, and magnetic melodies. As a result, the band—Jacoby Shaddix [vocals], Jerry Horton [guitars], Tobin Esperance [bass], and Tony Palermo [drums]—rise like never before…
After supporting 2012's The Connection for nearly two years, the quartet collectively decided on a change of scenery for album number eight. Rather than record at their hometown studio in Sacramento, they hit the road for Las Vegas in early 2014. Holing up in The Hideout, they worked with father-and-son super-producers Kevin and Kane Churko [Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment]. For the first time since The Paramour Sessions in 2006, the boys lived under the same roof, and they also began recording with a clean slate.
"Usually when we begin working, we'll have a bunch of demos, and I'll have a bag of lyrics ready to go," Jacoby says. "We didn't have those things this time. When we were touring The Connection, I was really focused on keeping my life together. Every time I would go on the road, I'd start clean and come home a mess. I let the road tear me apart. This time, I focused on keeping my relationships strong, my sober self healthy, and my spiritual life healthy. I didn't have time to write, to be honest."
"We walked into the studio with nothing," adds Jerry. "It was frightening since it was so different, but it was also liberating. Once the ball started rolling, it was a snowball effect."
"We wanted to do things a little bit differently," explains Tobin. "During the last record, the four of us had reconnected and gotten closer. We were in such a good place, so we all helped each other out on this one. There was no pressure. There were no expectations. We chose to work with somebody we'd never worked with before, go to a place we'd never lived previously, not worry, write songs from scratch, and have fun. We didn't overthink it. It was simple, and it fucking worked."
The Churkos continued to push the band out of its comfort zone, encouraging them to tread new territory, while maintaining their distinct identity. Five songs came from each respective producer. "Kevin and Kane were very involved," recalls Jerry. "They've got their tested methods and stamp. At the same time, they captured who we are. When it's heavy, it's really heavy. When it's dynamic, it's very diverse. They brought something fresh to the table."
"They have such a vast knowledge of the songwriting process," states Tony. "As a result, there is so much depth to the songs as well as the production. They're both really in tune with what kinds of musical movements and landscapes needed to accomplish a particular idea."
That energy courses through the album's ten tracks. The first single and title cut explodes into an arena-ready refrain that's as anthemic as it is atomic. Muscular guitars give way to an industrial stomp before sparking an uplifting and undeniable chant. "Face Everything And Rise" ignites this ride.
As far as the title goes, the writing was on the wall—literally. "Jacoby wrote F.E.A.R. on the wall of the studio in spray paint," laughs Tobin. "When we started the record, he was like, 'I want construction paper hung up on the walls everywhere so I can write down all of these thoughts.' That was the only thing he ended up writing on the wall. It stuck."
"Fear is something I face every day," the singer admits. "It's about taking a negative and turning it into a positive. When you see the word, it looks like Fear. If you look deeper, it's Face Everything And Rise." "It felt like such a great concept to write an album around," says Jerry. "It's about facing your fears and knowing that no matter what happens, you'll be alright."
"Our lyrical content is as strong as it has ever been," adds Tony. "With this record we want people to realize that their internal strengths can help them reach personal aspirations."
Elsewhere on the record, Papa Roach add old school flavor to the decidedly new school "Gravity" featuring Maria Brink of In This Moment. Jacoby spits a confessional and vivid verse in between hauntingly hypnotic vocals from the metal siren. "I lay it all out there," sighs Jacoby. "I talked to my wife about the song, and I told her I was going to talk about the darkness of our marriage in a deep sense. This was a tool of strength to show how we made it through those trials and tribulations and how we've both grown into stronger, better people that still know how to love each other. She loves the song."
Meanwhile, "Broken As Me" slams with a succinct groove, which Tobin eloquently describes best as a "straight-up fucking basher". Then, there's "Falling Apart". "I love the lyrics on it," the bassist adds. "It's about trying to find something to hold on to that can keep you strong, propel you forward, and be that light in your life. There's a lot of evil shit that can take over, but you don't have to fall prey to it." Everything culminates on "Warriors", which pairs Papa Roach with hip-hop luminary, one-half of Eminem's Bad Meets Evil, and Slaughterhouse member Royce da 5'9". It's unlike anything in the group's repertoire
Speaking of their catalog, 2015 also marks an important milestone for Papa Roach. It's the 15th anniversary of their triple-platinum debut, Infest, which solidified them as hard rock leaders. Since then, they've paved the way for countless other acts to find success at both radio and on stage.
Tobin smiles, "I'm really proud of that record. All of the songs were different as far as the styles and the vibes. The guitars were heavy and simple, but there was a dirty hip-hop vibe. There's a raw edge that we captured. I think that street vibe is badass."
"INFEST is straight fire one-hundred percent," declares Jacoby. "That's when I realized the purpose of my life playing music. Infest was the opening statement. It's the intro of who we were to become. It was just the top of the iceberg. That record is just as brutally honest and real as anything I've written to this day."
Ultimately though, F.E.A.R. signifies a new dawn for Papa Roach. Jacoby leaves off, "I hope people walk away believing they can do anything."