Hate is a strong word. As a kid, I was advised by my parents to not use that word lightly, so much so that I would usually say “strongly dislike!” instead. But in Hawthorne Heights’ case, hate is absolutely the right word to use. After the personal strife and label drama the band has been through, it only makes sense that they titled their first independent release Hate. The self-funded and self-produced EP features nine of Hawthorne Heights most volatile, vulnerable, and pissed-off songs. After a their brief stay at Wind-Up Records, the Ohio quartet decided to ditch record labels all together. They wanted to release music whenever they wanted to and however they wanted to, thus creating their own label, Cardboard Empire.
The first release in a series of three, Hate is sort of return to form for Hawthorne Heights. The heavier guitar chords, screamed vocals, and overall abrasive sound will harken back to the band’s earlier releases, but even then they never reached the aggression level that Hate has. The eerie opener, “There Was A Kid (Part 1),” immediately sets the tone for the album, slowly but surely building into the crushing “Is This What You Wanted?,” which begins with pummeling drum work from Eron Bucciarelli. The frantic back and forth yelling between JT Woodruff and Micah Carli will remind fans of Emery’s earlier work. The roaring “Divided” balances Woodruff’s airy cleans with Carli’s screams and creates a dynamic that has never sounded better from the band.
Really, Hawthorne Heights really lets it all go throughout the album, there is rarely any moments to catch your breath. “Wasted In NYC” features one of the best hooks in the HH discography, while “Stay Awake/Stay Alive” never lets up – the bridge is dripping with desperation. “Oceans” is one of the slower moments on the album, utilizing swelling guitar chords behind Woodruff’s tale of isolation. Hate closes with Thursday-esque “Passengers,” a battle cry against the hypocrisies and to stand up against what the media and corporations shove down our throats.
It took a few years, but Hawthorne Heights is finally speaking up about their hardships and they aren’t happy. Hate is a record that comes from a place of isolation, desperation, and, well, hatred. JT Woodruff holds nothing back lyrically, offering his most direct and vulnerable words yet. The instrumentation present on Hate is also top notch, delivering a resounding punch through and through. This is an anthem for those who are hurt, going through tough times, or just pissed at the world. Now five albums deep, Hate could be the definitive Hawthorne Heights album to date. The best part? They’re just getting started.