Hawthorne Heights are pissed off. Can you really blame them, though? Tragic member deaths, label issues, critics who are far too harsh; the band has endured quite a lot in their time. So with their own label, Cardboard Empire, to call home, Hawthorne Heights set out to reinvent their own wheel with Hate, the first of a trilogy of EPs.
One of the perks of having your own label is getting to do exactly what you want with a release, and one can tell that Hawthorne Heights took advantage of that. With full control over the resulting product, JT Woodruff used this opportunity to speak his mind on Hate, and the result is some of Hawthorne Heights' angriest, heaviest material yet. Within the first 5 seconds of "Is This What You Wanted?", this is painfully apparent. Woodruff and guitarist/screamer Micah Carli trade vocals over crunchy guitars and a steady drum pace set by Eron Bucciarell, crafting a song reminiscent of old HH. Fence-sitters can be immediately reassured that Hawthorne Heights is back and better than ever. Vocally, Woodruff has definitely improved, but it's hard to tell given the production value of Hate. It's not exactly top notch, but the lack of a glossy, vibrant production actually helps the EP sound grittier and personal, especially on songs like "Divided". Backing screams provided Carli throughout "Divided" give it a very grungy feel that was absent in recent albums, like the solid although very poppy, Skeletons.
Lyrically, however, Woodruff has only improved marginally, and is very hit-or-miss. Songs like the title track sound a bit juvenile (although very catchy) for a veteran frontman like JT, while tracks like the standout "Oceans" are a triumph. The latter is about the uncertainty of having someone you love overseas in Iraq, and having their life remain questionable, hoping that they make it home safe. It's brutally honest, and musically it's a drastic step up from HH's previous outings. You can tell that the entire band has gained confidence in their songwriting, which results in HH holding back nothing on this EP. The second half of Hate is superior to the first, with songs like "Four White Walls", which is bound to be a fan favorite, with it's plentiful gang vocals and "Sum 41 meets Thursday" sound. They close off Hate with "Passengers", which sees Woodruff analyzing today's culture and outlining the bleak future. The song ends with gang vocals backing up Woodruff's call to arms, and paves the way for whatever 2nd EP Hawthorne Heights has planned out.
If this release had one objective, it'd be to prove to people that Hawthorne Heights are still worth listening to. It'd be to win back fans that may have abandoned ship after their last albums, which have strayed away from what the band is best at. Hate is something different; it's heavy, it's honest, and it's remarkably consistent. If this is the path that Woodruff and his gang of talented musicians plan on going down, count me in, because they've finally found their sound, and it is great.
2. Is This What You Wanted?
5. Wasted in NYC
6. Stay Awake/Stay Alive
8. Four White Walls
Formed in Dayton, Ohio in 2001. Playing from the start on self-booked tours across the country gave them some initial national exposure, but they weren't signed to Victory Records until late 2003.... read more