There is virtually no way to capture the intensity of a Papa Roach live show in a recorded format. The band’s latest album, Time for Annihilation…On the Record and on the Road attempts to do so and comes as close to achieving that feat as possible without packaging in such intangibles as stage dives, blown-out eardrums and a vial of lead singer Jacoby Shaddix’s sweat.
To sweeten the pot, Time for Annihilation includes five brand new studio tracks. The disc’s first single, “Kick in the Teeth”, feels a bit poppier than the bulk of Papa Roach’s material to date. Its sports anthem/arena rock sing-a-long chorus has already seen it co-opted by ESPN for the network’s football pregame show. The lone ballad among the quintet of new tracks, “No Matter What” continues to carry the band through poppier-rock terrain than they’ve traversed before. Not to fear, however. Papa Roach are far from losing their edge, with the other new tracks (“Burn”, “The Enemy”, and particularly “One Track Mind”) taking a heavier, angrier tone, falling back on familiar themes of revenge, introspection, and survival. The built-in EP gives fans more bang for their buck, rounding out a collection of both old and new material and taking a novel approach to rock’s live album tradition.
Immediately following its new studio material, Time for Annihilation launches into a career-spanning live set recorded in Binghamton, NY on 8 December 2009 during Papa Roach’s co-headlining tour with Shinedown.
The album’s arrangement seems more than coincidental, following on the heels of Papa Roach’s dispute with their former label, Interscope/Geffen Records, who did the band dirty by releasing a greatest hits album in June of this year without the band’s authorization. Geffen leveled a two-fold strike at Papa Roach by releasing the “greatest hits” package, intending to reap the benefits as the band toured in support of Time for Annihilation, recorded with their new label, Eleven Seven Records. Geffen was able to do so through a loophole that saw Papa Roach lose their master recordings and all song rights to the label with the exception of the right to play their own material in a live setting. The band urged fans not give Geffen any more ill-gotten gains by purchasing the unauthorized “greatest hits” album. By playing some of their strongest material in a live-setting and recording said live show for posterity on their own terms, Papa Roach has stuck it right back to The Man and the label that robbed them of their rights.
In light of Papa Roach’s rights debacle, it’s almost ironic that the president of their new label, Eleven Seven, is Nikki Sixx of Motley Crüe — one of the few bands who negotiated to retain their masters and publishing rights when the group split with longtime label Elektra in the late ‘90s. Sixx has taken the group under his heavily-tattooed wing, having brought Papa Roach on tour on the inaugural trek of Crüefest and thus, introducing the quartet to a segment of metalheads who may not have otherwise gone out of their way to see the band perform live.
As one of those folks myself, while I had liked Papa Roach’s material before, I had no idea that their show was one of the loudest, most raw and passionate spectacles barely to be contained in a live setting.
Comparing the authentic, live Papa Roach experience with its recorded counterpart, many of the auditory similarities remain. The band is still in total command of their instruments with guitarist Jerry Horton not missing even a single, blistering note. Papa Roach’s rhythm section, bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Tony Palermo, get a chance to pound the crowd on live versions of “Forever” and “Between Angels and Insects” — the oldest track on the album from the band’s major label debut, Infest.
Jacoby Shaddix’s voice buckles with a slight quaver maybe once twice throughout Time for Annihilation. This is forgivable when considering the frontman is in a state of perpetual motion from the moment he hits the stage until the point where he jumps off of it. Both literally and figuratively, Shaddix hits the ground running into the crowd, fist-bumping and spraying fans with sweat. To the uninitiated, this could be attributed to some post-production tinkering. However, without the visual accompaniment of Jacoby tearing across the stage like a Category 5, the live album comes up short in illustrating how well Time for Annihilation preserves the dirtily pristine integrity of the band’s sound.
While Shaddix’s manic frontman style is a throwback to the days before shoegazing replaced charisma as the gold standard for live performance, his abundant energy does not detract from the very personal nature of the band’s lyrical content. There’s a certain sort of idealism mixed with their angst and frustration polyamorously wedded to an unflinching self-awareness and acknowledgment of faults. Papa Roach’s music strikes a chord with their audience, as does Shaddix, whose refreshingly uncanned stage raps are salted with expletives and good-natured mischief. In turn, the crowd eats it up, evidenced by the fact that it takes very little prompting to get them sing along on newer songs like “Time Is Running Out” and older material such as the band’s first big hit, “Last Resort”.
It’s only a small sampling of new music and a sliver of what their live show delivers, however, Papa Roach offers up an admirable effort and a nice twist on the standard live album concept. It doesn’t replicate the overflowing energy of Papa Roach’s live show, but still encapsulates what the band prizes above all: “Heart. Soul. Life. Passion.”