The sixth LP from metal supergroup HELLYEAH is their final album with drummer Vinnie Paul, whose hard-hitting career with Pantera, Damageplan, and beyond made him one of metal's most influential sticksmen and most memorable personalities. After laying down the drum tracks for Welcome Home, the metal legend passed away in June 2018 at 54. "Everybody else went home after the services," HELLYEAH vocalist Chad Gray tells Apple Music, "and I went right back to the studio, four days later." The completed album—Paul's final work—stands as a testament to his music and legacy. It's eclectic modern metal, burning through ruthless thrash screamers ("333"), anthemic midtempo alt-rock ("Welcome Home"), vintage nu metal ("Boy"), and a tender ballad that serves as an homage to their fallen brother ("Skyy and Water"). The morbid bent of a song like "Bury You"–a song unrelated to Paul's death–initially caused some internal conflict for Gray, but ultimately he turned to producer Kevin Churko and decided the best thing to do would be what Paul would have wanted. "I looked at Kevin and I said, 'You know what, dude? I am not going to deviate from the way that I write, at all,'" he says. "This is what this song is telling me, this is what I'm hearing. I know if Vinnie Paul was still with us in body, he would be fucking driving around town blasting that shit on 20 in his Escalade." Gray took Apple Music through Welcome Home's 11 tracks.
333 “The working title of the song was ‘333’ since Vinnie brought it in. I'm like, 'You know what? This is Vinnie's baby. That is going to stay the title.' [Dimebag Darrell]'s thing was, 333 is half evil. And I love that. It kind of became a part of my life. And then I get in a band with Vinnie, and that was kind of our mantra. You're still half good. That's better than a lot of people.”
Oh My God “I worked on that chorus probably two, three, four times. I just remember at some point, I just put my head in my hands, and I'm like, 'Jesus Christ, Kevin. It feels like I made a deal with the devil, and he's in my fucking blood.' I just ran out of the room. Didn't say another fucking word to him. I needed that one line that really brought everything together.”
Welcome Home “That song took me 12 days to write, which is fucking ridiculous. It's probably the longest it's ever taken me to write a song, ever. That song was actually written in December 2017. So, Vinnie heard that song 10 fucking million times. And if anybody ever hears that song, you would think that was written post-Vinnie. Just the emotion: 'Why are my feelings of loss like a welcome home?' Vinnie heard that song many, many times, and looooved it. Fucking loved it.”
I'm the One “The song is written about a person that just gets shit on their whole life. Always just at the end of the trough, just always gets the last fucking half scoop of mashed potatoes when everybody else's plates are full. You want somebody to beat up? I'm the one. You want a punching bag? I'm the one. You want to shit on somebody? I'm the one. If you want to step on my head so you can climb a rung up, and I go a rung down? I'm the one. The song really is very personal to me, because I've had a lot of that in my life. I came from an abusive childhood. I came from a lot of neglect. I came from a lot of bad times. I was in the music business and I've been fucked six ways to Sunday. But I'm so capable of love. I've got a lot of love in my heart, and I love my friends, more than anything. I love my heavy metal family. My favorite lyric in the whole song is 'But if you need my heart, I'm the one, I'm the one.'"
Black Flag Army "This is an after-Vinnie-passed song. The outpouring of emotions and condolences and stuff were just fucking overwhelming to us. It's about heavy metal family; it's about leaning on each other, because I've had to lean on my music, I've had to lean on my fans–not my fans, my family. We don't care what you think about how we dress. We don't care that we choose to go waaaaaaaaugh rather than sit down and have a cup of tea. We don't give a shit, because we are together, and we are one. In the Civil War, when you were outnumbered, if it was five on 100 and you're holed up, they would literally put a black flag on and they would hoist that motherfucker. And that was symbolic. I'll fight for you, you fight for me. You lean on me, I'll lean on you. But we are going to fuckin' fight to death, and we're going to fuckin' fight to death together."
At Wick's End “That song is kind of more of a poetic experiment than anything else: I'm nothing, you're nothing. I'm the candle burning you at both ends, but I'm also snuffing you at both ends. So it's kind of that duality juxtaposition kind of thing that I think we have as humans. Overall, I think the musicianship and musicality and the diversity of that particular track is really one of the most off-the-path songs that we've maybe ever written, honestly.”
Perfect “I remember waking up at 3:00 in the morning or something. I don't know if it was just subconsciously, unconsciously, thinking about it: 'You're as perfect as an apple with a worm and a bruise.' It's kind of the way that I look at narcissistic people. I believe that when I'm standing onstage I'm only three feet higher than them so they can see me. But in my head and my heart and my soul, I'm the same person. I think 'Perfect' represents those people that are so up their own ass and in their own head that they think that they are truly perfect. But honestly, we're all flawed.”
Bury You “I didn't want to be fucking judged for writing a song like that after what happened. It doesn't have anything to do with burying my fuckin' brother. It's empowering in the sense of 'live it like you own it, drive it like you stole it.' Go for your goals no matter what they are, no matter how high they are. I think that song, as harsh as the name is, represents empowerment, represents recognition, and recognizing, keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”
Boy “I grew up in a household with a stepfather and a mother that had a biological son together that was 10 years younger than me. I was kind of the enemy. And I didn't do anything wrong, I was only fuckin' 11, 12, 13, 14 years old. I isolated myself from the world because it sucked. The 'boy in the box' is representing me being isolated to a single room. To my bedroom. And the abuse. 'Just keep him in the junk drawer'—that's how I felt like I lived my life, like something you would just open the drawer and throw a piece of junk in it. I was the bottle-opener child that was just thrown in a fucking drawer and not loved and not cared about. It was a tough song to write.”
Skyy and Water “Vinnie's favorite drink was Skyy vodka, water, two limes. Obviously I'm not going to write the song about a drink, so I had to dig a little deeper than that. The words together are so beautiful: sky and water. And what I did was I just envisioned myself standing on the shores of the beach and remembering what that feels like. I used to four-wheel down to this landing and sit there on my tailgate, alone, and just watch the Colorado River go by, with a notebook, and just sit there and write. There's a certain time of day when the sun is just right and the water is just right and the hues are almost perfectly aligned, where you can't tell where one ends and one begins. And in theology, that invisible line is what separates Heaven from Earth. And I felt like that's where I wanted to go with the song, like, 'Where the sky meets the water, I'll see you.' Talking about how truly close we are to heaven. He's close enough where I can touch him, but unfortunately there's an invisible line, there's a firmament, between him and I. But I believe he is there.”
Irreplaceable “It's [audio] of him shooting a fuckin' selfie video at a bar. He was fuckin' irreplaceable as it gets, as far as human beings and as far as drummers. We put that on there because that is how he was. That was his personality. It's like Vin-bonics. He would just start down a road. He had no idea where he was going to end up, but his mind just worked that way. The words were just floating through his head; he was just a fuckin' conduit for the words.”