Review Summary: Watch Me Rise.
Have Heart was born in an era when hardcore in Massachusetts was at it's most violent. A Gangland episode that featured Elgin James and Boston hardcore heavily, along with a number of other works such as the documentary Boston Beatdown stands tribute to this statement. Among all this turbulence, Have Heart was able to rise above the standards set by the bands that they would share the stage with and change what Boston hardcore was and what it would be remembered for. Have Heart's legacy, unlike many of these other bands they played with, wasn't only left in Boston. It was felt in Hardcore as a whole. During this legacy, Have Heart released The Things We Carry. This album, while being their crowning achievement, is also one of the most essential and conscious Hardcore albums of the decade.
The Things We Carry brings with them everything that is essential in a hardcore album. Packed with aggression, passion, a message, and a sense of urgency. Pounding and precise drumming, lightning fast riffs, and vocalist Patrick Flynn's frantic, breathless shouts that act as a ringleader to the madness. Powerful songs with anthemic sing alongs are meant to be screamed at the top of your vice, using a style of hardcore that has the intention of breaking the barrier between the band and it's crowd. All the essential ingredients are expertly mixed together in The Things We Carry. Have Heart's vision of hardcore is minimalistic simplicity that is executed with streamlined perfection.
A recurring lyrical theme of The Things We Carry is Patrick Flynn's call to arms. In it, he doesn't call for violence, nor does he encourage us to pick up a rifle and take pot shots at what his audience might be facing. He instead encourages the listeners themselves to become the weapon they need to be. This theme of self reliance is best exemplified in the song Armed With A Mind, a song that urges oneself before all and mind over matter, which is best captured in lines like “I'll walk fearless, with a mind far greater than your f ucking fist!” The theme is reinforced in The Machinist in which Pat Flynn declares that a person's own so-called 'spoken word' will always bring with it a greater power than what any weapon could offer. Both of these songs, with their themes of self reliance and non violence were bold statements in a genre that was once dominated by the spirit of brotherhood and masochism.
Other songs are just as grand, full-figured, and conscious, utilizing the best that this band has to offer to the listener. Old Man II, with it's bright guitar landscapes that fight with large, chunky riffing, is refreshing and enthralling. Song Of Shame acts as a cautionary tale about a person's dance with his vices, ultimately succumbing to them despite his self assurance that he would not. Such songs against vice are a common theme throughout The Things We Carry and are found in Life Is Hard Enough and The Unbreakable. Watch Me Sink's beginning riff and the drummer's metronomic usage of his cymbals and toms create the landscape of one of the best buildups in the first half of the album. Have Heart's over the top usage of gang vocals in this song, a practice that can make or break any good hardcore release, are put to good use in this song. The band uses them to help paint the frantic landscape of Watch Me Sink and tell the story of a person who is embattled with their own negative perception of their environment. It goes to show every element that this band employs in their sound is intentional and used in order to help craft an overall mood and atmosphere. Everything is placed right where it needs to be in order for Have Heart to carefully package a sound that resonates with it's listener.
Watch Me Rise stands as by far one of the most statuesque songs ever written in modern hardcore and has become a ballad for the new generation of it's fans. Beginning with an explosive “God damn” on behalf of Flynn, the song is joined by the rest of the band before eventually jumping into a bass line that slowly increases in energy, and is then joined by the rest of the band as it progresses. Lead by the bass, the drummer builds intensity as Pat Flynn repeats “I'd rather die on my feet” over and over again, minimally increasing in volume each time he says it. As the guitar joins in, the band explodes as Flynn exclaims the latter half of his statement: “than live on my knees!” That statement, for many who have heard it, has become a resonating rallying cry for when they are embattled or put down. Watch Me Rise employs everything that has worked for Have Heart in the previous songs and brings them together. The themes of self-reliance, the frantic landscapes, the attention to detail, the minimalism, and a message. All are employed to the best of their ability in this classic closer to a classic album.
One fair and understandable complaint that can be made about Have Heart is their attachment to the straight edge lifestyle. It is no secret that they were straight edge when they performed. Pat Flynn and company were known to wear X's on their hands during performances and were usually a headlining band on straight edge themed shows. However, those two words are never explicitly said throughout the album's duration. In comparison to current straight edge bands like Kingdom or their predecessors like Judge, their songs and messages are far more accessible to people who may not share the same beliefs. This capability to draw in listeners who don't agree is the final attribute that makes this album spectacular as it goes to show that The Things We Carry was created by people who were wise beyond their years and certainly wise beyond their genre. The album is an exceptional release any way someone may look at it. With it, Have Heart is able to stake their claim as being one of the most essential and game changing bands to have played in the past decade.