It is fitting that the members of Hawthorne Heights named their band after a famous writer because their history has mimicked that of a novel. As always, a novel starts with an exposition. Six years ago, Hawthorne Heights burst into the mainstream and gave the masses what they would initially know as “emo.” Lyrics about cutting one’s wrists and blacking one’s eyes shot the band into stardom with regular airplay on both television and radio, enormous record sales and sold-out tours. Next comes the rising action, where the conflict begins to present itself. Hawthorne Heights dealt with label issues with Victory Records, but of course, their biggest loss came in 2007, when guitarist and vocalist Casey Calvert tragically passed away at the age of 26.
The turning point of the story, or climax, came when Hawthorne Heights made it clear that they would never replace Calvert and subsequently released an album, 2008’s Fragile Future, aptly titled considering no one, including the band, knew what would happen next. Time has come for the falling action, where Hawthorne Heights looks for a way to overcome the conflict. They found it with their latest album, Skeletons, a return to glory for a heavily scrutinized band that has persevered through its trials and tribulations.
Fragile Future can be considered a safe album that turned Hawthorne Heights into a typical radio-friendly pop-rock band. But just like Skeletons suggests, Hawthorne Heights stripped down to their bare bones in order to find themselves. The first single, “Nervous Breakdown,” highlights what defined Hawthorne Heights’ sound in the first place. Guitarist Micah Carli’s trademark sonic guitar effect is back and more polished than ever before, while bassist Matt Ridenour’s poppy bass lines are once again in the forefront. Frontman JT Woodruff’s penchant for writing soaring choruses has returned and with drummer Eron Bucciarelli’s drum fills working in perfect unison with everyone else, the result is both pleasant and nostalgic.
Hawthorne Heights experiments with new ideas from past and present scene staples (i.e. the electronically-tinged “Drive,” and the stripped-down ballad “Picket Fences”) while also trying to step outside of the emo-rock box (i.e. the Western/Johnny Cash-inspired “Gravestones”). But the most notable change comes from Hawthorne Height’s most distinguishable (and possibly notorious) facet: the vocals. Woodruff, not known for being the sharpest vocalist, puts on the strongest performance of his career. His sweet, clean style is still prevalent, but Woodruff employs a breathy baritone and even a grizzled growl on some tracks. When Calvert passed away, the band made a promise not to replace him or use his unclean vocals on Future. Yet, the release of Skeletons marks the return of the screams, this time done by Carli. Carli’s screaming is not as recognizable as Calvert’s, but it is subtly used instead of being treated as a novelty, which provides a better fit for the overall sound.
Speaking of Calvert, it’s obvious that Woodruff wrote the entire album with him in mind. Future featured a few songs concerning Calvert, but they seemed to be hastily put together and therefore lacked the punch that Skeletons has. The opening track, “Bring You Back,” is the most blatant example, with Woodruff calling to the heavens, promising to “do anything to bring you back.” It is easy to hear how pained the members still are and that is what makes Skeletons such a touching tribute to a fallen friend.
The last section of the plot chart is the resolution, where the protagonist overcomes the obstacle and learns from it. Hawthorne Heights has tied up all of the loose ends with Skeletons. After everything that has transpired, the band has driven through the settling dust and is now a stronger, more cohesive group because of it. Nothing can hold back Hawthorne Heights anymore and the continuation of their story will be intriguing to behold.
2. Nervous Breakdown
3. The End of the Underground
6. Broken Man
7. Last Few Words
8. Abandoned Driveways
9. Picket Fences
10. Here I Am
11. Hollywood & Vine
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