“Cut my life into pieces / This is my last resort!” With those loaded words, Papa Roach immediately gained the attention of an army of misguided teens looking for their way in a confusing world. Infest was a massive record for a lot of reasons. In essence, it had a great lead single in “Last Resort,” fantastic marketing, perfect timing in the rap-rock scene, as well as ultra-talented musicians backing up what they wanted to accomplish in their sound. The music landscape in 2000 was littered with tons of rap-rock bands looking for their breakthrough in a crowded, and at times, confusing rock scene. What made Papa Roach stand out from the pack was their ability to grab their audience from the first listen and give them a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves. I’m sure many of us can remember the first time we heard the guitar riff of the lead single on the music video that seemed to be airing on MTV more often than not, and how it made us all feel something.
The record blasts off with some blazing guitar-driven rap-rock on the title track, and the charismatic front-man Jacoby Shaddix made sure that he would not be mistaken for anyone else when he began his rap saying, “My name’s Coby Dick / Mr. Dick if you’re nasty / Rock a mic with a voice that’s raspy / And I’m poetic in my operations / My God-given talent is to rock all the nations.” As much as Shaddix may now lament the amount of rap that is on this album, he is more than capable of putting together cohesive and rhythmic words. It was in this introductory song that Papa Roach began to build up their fan-base with a call to action not to be lumped in with the status quo.
The other themes that hit a chord with so many teenagers in the early ’00s were the feelings of growing up in a poor environment (“Broken Home”), substance abuse (“Binge”), and destructive people (“Snakes”) which were all conveyed throughout the LP. On “Broken Home,” Papa Roach made their mark on the rock scene by connecting the dots on what each of their fans tick, and by making them feel like they weren’t alone in their struggles. This becomes clear on verses like, “I know my mother loves me / But does my father even care? / If I’m sad or angry / You were never ever there / When I needed you / I hope you regret what you did / I think I know the truth / Your father did the same to you / Did the same to you.” By listening to these words again, the youth of America felt a little less alone in their insecurities and could instantly relate to the messaging.
“Dead Cell” is an aggressive, almost punk rock blast of energy powered by the lightning-fast guitar playing of Jerry Horton. The song remained a fan favorite in the band’s live set and showcased the chops of the musicians that make up the band. “Between Angels and Insects” was the last single to be released from the album and further showcased what made the group so well-received commercially. By the time the record had reached the end of its promotion cycle, it had sold over three million albums in the US alone. It was on this last single that Papa Roach began rounding out what they would be better known for in the latter stages of their career: melodic and aggressive rock.
“Blood Brothers” features a cool opening riff from Horton and some under-appreciated drumming from former band member Dave Buckner. Other songs such as “Revenge” teetered on the edge of grunge and alternative rock with some down-tuned guitars and rapped verses. The last blast of high-energy rock comes in the form of the album closer, “Thrown Away.” With more rapped verses bleeding away into a melodically sung chorus, Papa Roach had nearly perfected the rap-rock formula in just one major label album’s time.
The bonus/hidden track called “Tightrope” remains one of my favorite Papa Roach moments to date. It features a reggae-infused style of rock and beat, with some confidently sung vocals from Shaddix. Shaddix’s closing chorus of, “There is a thin line between what is good and what is evil and / I will tiptoe down that line, but I will feel unstable / My life is a circus and I am tripping down that tightrope / Well, there is nothing to save me now, so I will not look down,” continued to be relatable even with a drastic change in styles from what had been presented previously on the album. It was a creative way of ending such an aggressive sounding record with some reflective beauty mixed with tragedy.
Overall, Papa Roach had done plenty to set themselves apart from the crowded rock scene in 2000 and had laid the groundwork for success early on in their career that is still fruitful. Shaddix’s vocals have steered further and further away from rapping into polished vocals later in their career, but there is no mistaking his chops on this thrilling debut.