Review Summary: Something that deserves much more than it'll ever get.
Hawthorne Heights is the band that you love to hate. Screaming “Cut my wrists and black my eyes!” on their first album, The Silence in Black and White, which sold thousands of copies, they attracted hate to their name. However, they also attracted many loyal fans, with their follow-up If Only You Were Lonely receiving just as much attention. The band’s career flied by successfully… until the sad and sudden death of guitarist Casey Calvert and a terrible stunt with their record label. Their career came to a slow, and their next album Fragile Futures (the first without Calvert) just did not deliver.
Now Hawthorne Heights is back and ready to deliver with Skeletons, throwing the listener headfirst into “Bring You Back,” which is possibly Hawthorne Heights’ greatest song yet. With genuine, if blunt, lyrics like “I’d do anything if it could bring it you back / I’d go anywhere if you’d show me the map,” you know instantly that Calvert is still influencing the band, and for the better.
For the first half of the album, each song delivers with catchy choruses and well-played guitars (especially the electro-tinged “Drive,” “Nervous Breakdown,” and “Broken Man,” all of which are going to be clinging inside your head). These songs don’t have the intensity in the way their older work did, but have a newer, more refined sound, showcasing their maturation in songwriting without any generic “emo angst.”
Another apparent highlight are lead singer’s J.T. Woodruff’s vocals. Able to sing with passion and power, showcased especially “Unforgivable” and “Here I Am,” he also croons sweetly in the slower “Picket Fences” and “Boy,” and the latter’s chorus also shows soaring vocals, set to impress many. Unlike in their earlier works, Woodruff’s voice is now much more interesting and versatile.
This album is far from perfect however. Even though the band has shown progression in all areas, the drumming is nothing special and is left in the dust by the vocals and guitar-work. “Gravestones” also tries to add a Western-flair, but fails and ends up being a dull track and failed experimentation.
Skeletons is what it is: an emotional, mature, and genuine piece of work that is Hawthorne Heights to the core. While the lyrics are not complex, they are still very relatable and thought-provoking. It isn't groundbreaking, but is still a great release for the genre. This record deserves a good listen, and will impress those few who give it a true one.