Welcome to the Freakshow

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According to Austin Winkler, Welcome to the Freakshow, the fourth studio album from Oklahoma-based post-grunge/sleaze rockers Hinder, was created in the throes of "a really, really dark drug binge" that resulted in a post-recording hospital stint for the notoriously rowdy frontman, suggesting that the band had finally reached the rehab portion in its extremely long reading of Mötley Crüe's The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. While Freakshow may have been conjured in darkness, it's hardly a downer, offering up 11 (culled from the usual 50-70 that the band purports to have written upon each new release) tracks that run the gamut from crass, high-energy "underbite rock" anthems ("Save Me," "See You in Hell," "Wanna Be Rich") to cliché-ridden, lighter-melting power ballads ("Should Have Known Better," "Talk to Me," "Anyone But You"), all of which feel like incidental music culled from an unauthorized made-for-television biopic of Mutt Lange. Winkler's voice, a surprisingly complex amalgamation of Layne Staley, Chad Kroeger, and Trent Reznor, remains Hinder's greatest asset, and his "all in" approach, especially amidst such commonplace, retro-metal trappings, helps to elevate the album's more immediate offerings, like the aforementioned first single "Save Me" and its sordid counterpart "Freakshow," an inch or two above the surface. That said, it's awfully hard to throw Hinder a bone, as they seem to prefer ones that have spent a great deal of time in much larger dog's mouths, and while they're not the only band with a fetish for post-flannel brooding and Sunset Strip posturing, they're certainly among the worst offenders.

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