Another band that talks about “Cutting wrists and blacking eyes"
, failed relationships, and on top of all that is signed to Victory Records. Man that alone is enough to make plenty turn the other way. Regardless, I am not here to try to change your opinions on the band; I am just here to give you mine on this album. Hawthorne Heights released The Silence in Black and White
in 2004 on the infamous Victory Records. Despite its 04 release, the big single Ohio is for Lovers
did not receive its mass amount of play and attention until 2005. The single paved the way for the band, making them the name they are today (for better or for worse) and became the song they are known for. Between catchy hooks, solid rhythms, and some nifty little riffs, there is no doubt the single is an excellent song; but it is these things as well as others that succeed here that fail during other instances throughout the record.
To put things simply, if a casual listener gave this album a spin, they would have no clue that there are three guitar players plenty of times. You have to listen extremely hard to hear the harmonization when the band uses it. Usually the guitarists exercise riffs over start stop palm muted rhythms. This works fairly effective throughout the album, even though there are other bands that use three guitarists to more potential. Drum wise the album is slightly above average. The drums do just about everything they need to, keeping things fairly tight while switching patterns up enough to prevent boredom. Bass is heard quite well throughout the album, which is a definite plus. Their bassist has a very cool and unique tone which adds a lot to not only the rhythm section but to the album itself. Vocals on this album can be very inconsistent, but being a debut this should not be a huge shock. The main singing by JT is fairly easy to distinguish despite it going into a typical whine at times. Backing vocals are done by the bassist and often add a lot of depth to the choruses. Whether harmonizing or layering atop of, Matt does a nice job assisting JT. The screaming is a different story and is a big reason many dislike the band. Casey has a very throaty sounding scream which can contrast greatly with the music. With three vocalists and three guitarists, Hawthorne Heights
would seemingly have a great deal of things going on in their songs, despite the fact that it is sometimes the opposite.
It might not be evident from the first 10 seconds of the record, but a little before the halfway point one will realize that this can be quite a depressing album. The lyrical subject is often about missing a past loved one or failed relationships. The lyrics themselves often times lack deepness and are very reminiscent of a middle school student’s livejournal. Despite their poor writing, the lyrics have an undeniable flow to them as they usually fit the songs quite well. However, often times the songs have forced transitions which do not contain the same fluency the lyrics do. It is quite obvious that the band has some issues with its song writing, due to these sketchy transitions, overly simple lyrics, and at times a passive use of their potential triple guitar attack. At a young age, there is time for this to be improved upon as the band gets it right plenty of times during the record.
By now, it is clear the band incorporates both singing and screaming vocals into their songs; but this is not where the transitions go wrong. Things such as going from a chorus to a verse sometimes come off as forced and not quite right. Dissolve and Decay
will be a suitable example of this, as right after the first chorus moving from that heavy state to the softer verse just feels awkward with the little pause. Being that the chorus contained some catchy riffs this is a shame, but in the end not a huge mishap. Later on in the song however around the 2:00 mark, the transition to the bridge is not very well worked out at all. The last bit of the song does not seem to belong at all and another chorus is pulled out of seemingly nowhere with the goal to increase accessibility. Hawthorne Heights
also has a bit of difficulty exercising diverse formulas for some of their songs. The second to last song on the record Sandpaper and Silk
follows a formula much too similar to previous tracks with its soft verse feel and louder chorus leading into a distorted bridge/outro. Track seven Screenwriting An Apology
is brought down tremendously by its terrible screaming and lyrics. “You have me still because I'm breathing, although it has slowed down. Please don't cry because I'm leaving. I hope I see you soon."
The screaming found here is a prime example of the clash it has to the music, if you can call it that as this song drags on and becomes very bland. Obvious negatives of this album are the screaming, poor lyrics, rushed transitions. Of course there are exceptions to everything and this is no different.
There are moments when the band gets a lot of things right and their true potential is shown. The album opener Life on Standby
is a great song by itself as well as for an opener. After the brief intro, JT and Casey come in together with their dual vocals. When the band is playing a louder style, Casey’s screaming blends in with it much better, creating a nice raw sound. This is continues its success during the chorus, providing a very powerful hook with the chants. The transition to the bridge is nailed after a small fake ending. This song features a great outro due to an awesome guitar tone that cuts through with a brief melodic riff. Some additional well executed and placed riffs come out during The Transition
. The riffs work great, whether one guitar is playing them and being backed by a solid rhythm section or dual guitars are harmonizing. There are some small moments in the song when JT gives a weak vocal performance, but the busyness of the guitars should be a good enough compromise as they seem to persist the right amount throughout. Credit needs to be given, for this genre putting together an enjoyable song over 4 minutes can quite rare on a debut; and they don’t stop with just one.
More enjoyable leads come out in Silver Bullet
. While a close knit rhythm opens the song, a great harmonized riff separates the intro from the verse at around the 23 second mark. The verse tones things down a little as palm muted guitar is heard. If you listen closely, you can hear the variety in the guitar parts. More strong vocal harmonization comes out in the chorus as Matt shows his often overlooked talent. The song begins to feel a little repetitive towards the 3 minute mark, but some varied guitar riffs save it from during into sheer boredom. When the last chorus repeats, the guitar riff and layered vocals make a great ending for the song. Despite a bit of a weaker second half, the album ends on a good note with Speeding Up the Octaves
. JT’s voice fits the music amazingly throughout the verse and chorus. Guitar wise, this song is a highlight, as the riffs and harmonization are extremely well placed and executed. The dual guitar harmonization over JT’s vocals during the verse show the band’s potential and talent. It is truly a shame they did not exercise this more throughout the album. The little stop start rhythm leading up to the chorus provides a great opening for an undeniably catchy chorus. “I'll take this ink from my arms and write your name in the sky. Please don't use my letters to start your fires this time"
Not bad, the chants that follow add a lot of power and strength to the chorus. Before too long, the song drifts into a nice mid-tempo riff. The different section provides a very different feel than what has been heard on the rest of the album and shows a smooth transition that was botched earlier. It is always nice to find variation towards the end of an album, especially when it works well like in this case. The harmonization that comes in during the second half works out great, as the watery effects on the guitars create unique tones. Things begin to slow down and fade as JT whispers during the songs outro. Things end on quite the strong note.
The first branch of pop punk I heard with screaming in it was none other than this band and this album. Between the catchy choruses, tight rhythms, and well used harmonized guitar parts, this album had a fairly good vibe throughout the first few listens. After more listens, things got bland and repetitive in some cases. It became difficult to handle this in heavy doses and this album sat in a layer of dust for quite sometime. What is truly ironic is there are some things in this album you need to listen to multiple times before you will pick up on them, as often times the slightly different guitar patterns are difficult to detect. On the flip side, this album can spoil rather fast, and plenty will not listen to it multiple times due to its often poor first impressions and replay value. When the talent Hawthorne Heights
poses is used, it is at times overlooked due to its almost hidden nature. Other times, they take a more straightforward approach and things end up bland and boring. At the end of the day, for a debut from a no name band (at the time), this is a fairly good album. The lyrics and transitions are in need of work while the music is in need of variation, but that is no surprise. No one will be absolutely perfect the first time they write music and being so young, the band has plenty of time to fix their mishaps. Other parts of the album show the talent and creativity that the band has. Once they figure out how to successfully and consistently use what they have, the band could quite possibly create something very special. Many have already shut the door on Hawthorne Heights
which in a way is understandable. My advice; don’t lock it just yet.
Final Rating: 3/5
NOTE: I understand there are plenty that do not like this band here and that is fine. All I ask is please do not turn this into a broadly bash the band page. If you want to go into detail about certain dislikes, be my guest as I am not here to force opinions. Let’s just stay on track as a review site and not have 100 one liners saying “HH SUCKS!!!!" Thanks.