Review Summary: Heavier and better than before, Hawthorne Heights are finally moving on.
Music always has the power to divide opinion and inspire hatred in those who dislike a certain act. Rock fans especially, simply love to hate on other artists. During the mid 2000’s, one such band was Post-Hardcore crew Hawthorne Heights. Their debut album, The Silence In Black And White, had been released on Victory Records and the single, Ohio Is For Lovers, featured lyrics many listeners just could not take seriously.
Personally I never thought Hawthorne Heights deserved most of the criticism levelled at them. While lyrically they leave something to be desired, the creepy atmospherics present in their first two releases gave the albums real personality.
Since then they have released three more records, during which they lost guitarist and screamer Casey Calvert to an early grave and left two record labels due to various reasons. Now, with their own label, Cardboard Empire Records, Hawthorne Heights are releasing a trilogy of EP’s, and the first is called Hate.
Musically this is a step back in the right direction after their recent poppier outings, and now Micah Carli contributes screams regularly. Alongside this the breakdowns and gang vocals are back too. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this a regression back to their earlier style. This is heavier than anything Hawthorne Heights have put out before, and is certainly better written. Stay Awake/Stay Alive, while featuring no screaming, contains a gang vocal breakdown, and is one of the fastest tracks on the album, only really letting up for a matter of seconds when singer JT Woodruff quietly croons “Lets sing a song about winter for a change.”
Is This What You Wanted opens with the heaviest moment on the whole album as Micah and JT scream the title repeatedly, before slowing into the kind of creepy atmospheric verse we have come to expect from the Ohio quartet. Wasted In NYC is catchy enough to get stuck in your head for days and Oceans is a relatively laid back track that even manages to pull off a spoken word bridge, something that usually ruins a song (See My Chemical Romance - Na Na Na).
If there is one major problem with the album, it is what divided opinions on the band back in 2004, the lyrics. While undoubtedly improved on the whole, JT lets himself down on the opening “There Was A Kid (Part I)” and the title track “Hate”. The latter is extremely catchy, but you can’t help feeling that at this stage in their career, they should be able to find better lyrics than “I hate my job and I hate my life/I hate every ***ing thing in this world/I swear to god if I had a knife/I’d cut my heart out and give it to her.” Despite this, the rest of the lyrics aren’t too bad and show they have come a long way since their debut record.
Hawthorne Heights claims to want to make a music video for each song on this EP, with one for Is This What You Wanted already released. While a fresh idea, I can’t help but feel it will be both a waste of time and resources. With this EP Hawthorne Heights have certainly released a good collection of songs and a step back in the right direction musically. With 9 tracks, this EP is as long as some albums and bar the opener every single one is fairly strong.
Hawthorne Heights may never recapture their former popularity, and will probably never win over their most hardened critics, but they seem not to care, and having abandoned their previous radio friendly sound, have produced some of their best work yet.