It’s been five years and two album releases since American heavy metal practitioners Hellyeah! played a headlining tour down under. Next month they are set to return.
Guitarist Tom Maxwell told Gazette editor Matt Lawrence how much he was looking forward to blistering the eardrums of Sydneysiders.
‘‘We are beyond excited man,’’ he said. ‘‘I think I can speak for the rest of the guys, especially Chad and Vinnie, that Australia has been Hellyeah’s kind of home away from home internationally. We’re super excited and it’s been since Soundwave — that was the last time we were there.’’
Formed in 2006, Hellyeah is a group of epic proportions. Maxwell has previously served with Nothingface, singer Chad Gray was with Mudvayne and drummer Vinnie Paul was skin-beater for Pantera.
Obviously the supergroup tag fits, but unlike many other similar acts melded together from other units, Hellyeah was always a long term proposition, as opposed to a one-album thrill and move on deal.
The band has released four albums, the most recent, last year’s Blood For Blood, which has been hailed as the one we’ve all be waiting for.
Maxwell agrees with the description. He says it was created amid changes in the band, which saw the addition of new players Kyle Sanders on bass and Christian Brady on guitar.
‘‘We’re really in love with this record,’’ Maxwell said. ‘‘For us, it’s our first album. It’s the record we’ve always wanted to make and finally we were able to make it. The responsibility that we had to take on in one album cycle was pretty intense and I think that most bands would have folded, but if anything it needed to happen. It was painful, the whole transition, and the last year-and-a-half since we wrote and recorded the record we’ve just matured and gone through so much, literally trying to break free of the skin that we were carrying around for the last two years. It was tough and I thought this record really was our break away kind of album and it’s awesome.’’
Hellyeah’s Australian visit will mark the tail end of the Blood For Blood tour. As well as dates in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, the guys will take to the stage of The Metro in Sydney on Thursday, August 27.
So what can the local crowd expect this time around?
‘‘You’re pretty much going to hear Blood For Blood in its entirety minus like two songs,’’ said Maxwell. ‘‘We’re gonna come down and we’re going to play it. It’s going to be fierce and we have some choice songs from the past, specially some stuff off the first album, which is my other favourite after Blood For Blood.
‘‘Australia has yet to see this band with our new line up, with Christian and Kyle. The musicianship has improved and skyrocketed. The energy is out of control, we’re in a good spot and we’re getting ready to start another album after we finish Australia actually.’’
Maxwell took on the writing duties on Blood For Blood and is extremely proud of its balls-to-the-wall heavy sound.
‘‘This is the type of music that I like to play,’’ he said. ‘‘This is who I am. These songs are comprised of just a reflection of me and the responsibility fell in my lap. I wasn’t going to shy away or get apprehensive about it, I was like, ‘f**k yeah, let’s do this, let’s get in a gun fight with a knife’. This is the way it should have been.
‘‘Me and Chad put this band together, this was our baby. This is what we wanted to do. This is the type of music that we wanted to play. We wanted to be honest and transparent and emotional and angry and bitter and loving and compassionate. All of it man. Just brutally beautiful. I think we’re just getting started to be honest.
‘‘Our other records were very one note. It just didn’t have enough roots to it and this record we had the opportunity to really make a great record. I said to Chad when we were doing Blood For Blood, ‘this has to be like it’s the last record that you’ll ever do in your life, so make it count’. And that’s the way we did it, because you never know. You’ve got to make each one count.’’
Hellyeah’s gigs are well known for their intensity, both on and off the stage. And that’s just how Maxwell likes it.
‘‘It affects me big time,’’ he said. ‘‘If a crowd is laying on their ass I’m gonna be angry and they’re going to piss me off, where if they’re going nuts and its like a school of piranha then I’m happy.’’
While such a tag could be seen as a burden due to preconceived expectations, Maxwell is cool with the supergroup label. ‘‘It’s the pigeonholing of a group of people, that’s the burden of it,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of bands come together that are comprised of huge successful other bands and there’s nothing wrong with that, I think it’s fantastic, but we were like this was gonna be all or nothing.
‘‘In the beginning we got branded with that, but to us its always been a band. We knew what we were going to do and we knew that we loved this thing, but we also knew that it was going to take an awesome amount of work. We literally are one of those success stories where we never relied on anything from our past to get to where we are today, we’ve been Hellyeah from the beginning and we stay true to that, and even more so now with Blood For Blood.
‘‘I think this record cemented us and now people are starting to wake up and go, ‘oh, this is what we’ve always wanted from this band’. Things are getting serious now.’’
Such recognition is extremely important to Maxwell.
‘‘It’s very important because I’m not the guitar player from Nothingface anymore,’’ he said. ‘‘I put the nail in that wooden box and I buried it. I’m not that person any more. A lot has happened to me over the last eight years. I’ve experienced life with these guys, in this band and with this music, I’ve become a father, I’m a different person.
‘‘This is my band. There’s Mudvayne fans out there that would love Chad to get back and I’m sure there’s a couple of guys in that band that would like Chad to get back, but I won’t speak for Chad, he’s a free man, but he came here to do this with me in this band and we’re expressing ourselves independently away from anything that was pulling us or dragging us down.’’