Oh, man. I don’t even know where to start. I guess, to be fair, I need to give credit where credit is due. Since my introduction to the band in 2006, Hatebreed has consistently released reliably catchy crossover Hardcore tunes, right on the cusp of heavy and bombastic, album after album. In my experience, hearing a Hatebreed album and witnessing the band perform live are two different animals, which more often than not end up being quite complimentary. Jamey Jasta’s lyrics, along with his delivery of them, has always been something of an inspiration to me, despite their often juvenile tone, and I must admit to being ‘that guy‘ when it comes to sticking up for Hatebreed as a whole. The band has helped me through many tough spots emotionally over the years, and I’m absolutely positive there are thousands of other folks who can say the same thing. In addition to that, Hatebreed (Jasta in particular) is a champion for the underground. That simply cannot be ignored or slighted. These dudes do not take their success for granted, and are constantly willing to share the spotlight with whomever they believe is deserving.
Taking all of the above into consideration, it’s safe to say I am a fan of Hatebreed. Not a die-hard by any stretch of the imagination, but a big enough fan to jump at the chance to hear their new album, “Weight of the False Self,” several days before its official release. And while I found the first couple singles (“Instinctive,” and the title track) on the disappointing side, I didn’t let that curb my enthusiasm. Fuck no! I cranked it up! Then… things got a bit complicated.
At just about the half-way point, I was reminded of something I have often said to myself:
“I am far too old to waste my time reviewing an album I wouldn’t listen to twice.”
This bummed me out for two reasons. 1) I didn’t like the feeling of disliking a Hatebreed record, and 2) I was going to have to listen to it again, so as to not break my own rule. I could only hope that a second run through would turn some switches in my brain, thereby reversing my initial reaction to what I believed to be rushed and relatively thoughtless material. Or worse… time consuming and over-thought material that just plain old didn’t work.
By clearing the mechanism, taking a breath, and giving myself some room to consider the music on its own merits (as opposed to it being specifically Hatebreed music), I did enjoy it quite a bit more on that second spin. While “Instinctive” sounds better with some distance on it, and there are several standout guitar moments from Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinec, the first half of the album is still a bit of a struggle. It’s just good enough to keep listening, hoping for an ‘ah-ha’ moment, which does finally arrive on track six, “A Stroke of Red.” Jasta’s vocal cadence is spot on here, which is enhanced excellently by the rhythm section (Matt Byrne-drums, Chris Beattie-bass), as well as chugging and surprisingly melodic guitar work. It’s fast and bad-ass, made for the pit, and up to this point the song that saves the record.
Why didn’t I notice this the first time? Well… I had my Hatebreed goggles on. A fact that kept me from seeing the value in subsequent tunes like “This I Earned,” and “The Herd Will Scatter,” the latter of which has a ridiculously infectious Thrash-like guitar riff holding it together. But here’s the problem with those Hatebreed goggles (or any band-specific goggles)… you need to be able to realize you have them on and be willing to take them off at the same time. Otherwise you’ll be incapable of supporting the evolution of artists you claim to appreciate. That’s just the plain truth, and one thing that probably drives bands like Hatebreed absolutely bonkers!
Now, though I did enjoy that second spin, I’m not a huge fan of “Weight of the False Self.” I’m not certain that will ever change. But I’m no less a fan than I was before hearing it, although after doing so I can’t say I’m a bigger fan either. It’s a Hatebreed album. Die-hards are going to fucking love it. Haters are going to fucking hate it, and probably more than they hated the last one, but Hatebreed isn’t going to give a shit. They’ll make another album in a couple years, which will most likely sound quite a bit like the others. Possibly better than the one before, possibly not. That’s what fans have come to love about the band, and if I’m being honest there isn’t anything about this new material that’s going to knock anybody off the Hatebreed wagon entirely. There just won’t be many clamouring to jump on for the first time.
Rating – 3.5/5