Review Summary: I gave you bats, not butterflies
Craig Mabbitt has his work cut out for him; fronting two successful bands in the scene (Escape the Fate, The Dead Rabbitts), while also putting in time for various features, tours, and producing other bands is no easy task. When it was announced that Howard Benson would be producing Escape the Fate's new album, 'Hate Me', and how this new album would be embracing the band's softer sound inclinations, it left most devoted listeners skeptical; but this wasn’t unexpected, due to the decidedly heavier tone of The Dead Rabbitts's debut album. Despite valid initial concerns, Escape the Fate’s fifth effort is a finely produced album that ditches most of its attempts to fill their previous metalcore niche, and dives straight into unabashed, melodic rock territory.
You’re going to get three undeniable qualities with this album; infectious choruses, instrumentally competent verses leading up to said infectious choruses, and entertaining solos during the bridge before another infectious chorus. If you couldn’t tell from the repetition, this is a very hook heavy album, and the choruses are the highlight; luckily, the band delivers an addictive hook in almost every song. Songs like “Remember Every Scar”, and “Breaking Me Down” were written with the chorus in mind, and as a result they lodge in your brain like a Craig Mabbitt’s vocals are the star of the show here. He’s mostly cut back on the screaming, barring a few out of place heavier metalcore throwback tracks such as “Just A Memory”, and “Les Enfants Terribles.” It’s not that his clean vocals have necessarily improved, it’s the jump in the quality of the songwriting. Bringing fresh blood into the crew allowed for new stylistic choices, allowing the best of Craig’s vocal qualities to be pushed to the forefront. The lyricism has suffered a slightly downgrade from previous efforts, but is still serviceable enough to get the job done. Most of the songs revolve around the band’s betrayal from multiple members from the band’s inception leaving the group; otherwise they dive into subjects like alcoholism, isolation, and acceptance in a rather straightforward manner.
The musicianship is the biggest flip-around here, and is a stark contrast from the previous album’s metalcore infused riffing. The production leans more towards painting the instrumentals as a cohesive unit, rather than having each individual part stand out, which works to its advantage as everything still sounds crisp, and fresh. It’s definitely a softer and more focused experience; with less emphasis on riffing, and breakdowns, and more focus on grooves, and atmosphere. While lead guitarist newcomer Kevin Gruft may not be as technically proficient as previous guitar lead Monte Money, he’s a better songwriter; this is very apparent as the compositions are more about moving the song forward, and building the atmosphere, rather than being technical for the sake of being technical. While the bass is unfortunately mostly absent from the final mix, the rhythm arguably plays a bigger role here than the lead; Craig’s vocals mostly follow the rhythm guitar patterns, and as a result they’re the pivotal piece in this musical machine.
This record could mean one of two things for the band; either they continue to move into more mellow territory, and capitalize on their more melodic tendencies, or pull another stylistic shift on their next effort. Either way, Escape the Fate’s work will more than likely continue to impress as long as they keep playing to their strengths, and Hate Me is yet another worthy addition to a continuously solid discography.