Overall Score: 5/10 Breakdowns: 7/10 Power and passion: 5/10 Lyrical content: 4/10 Pros: Enough moments of quality that will fit into a live set without being too distracting Cons: As an overall record it gets bogged down by mediocre tracks
Hardcore music at it’s finest provides an instant cathartic release for it’s audience and there’s an argument that no one does that better than Hatebreed. Connecticut hardcore legends, Jamey Jasta and co. have been tearing up stages since 97’ with their thrash influenced brand of positive yet aggressive anthems. Known for their distinctive style, Hatebreed operate with the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality, shown in their last release, 2016s ‘The Concrete Confessional’. Following that up with their eighth studio album titled ‘Weight of the False Self’, the question is can they once again deliver that release of energy that’s bought the commitment and affection of fans for 22 years.
‘Weight of the False Self’ comes out swinging with it’s high-energy opening two tracks. Serving as an under 6-minute introduction into who Hatebreed are and exactly what they do, ‘Instinctive (Slaughterlust)’ and ‘Let Them All Rot’ are the highlights of the tracklist. Showcasing what made Hatebreed so great in the first place, both tracks are stacked with the band’s own cliches but they’re done brilliantly with ferocious energy. Leaning more on the side of the devil on Jasta’s shoulder rather than the angel, they come with massive riffs, Slayer-style breakdowns and classic Hatebreed crowd chants that are sure to explode live. With the subtlety of a 12-gauge shotgun, this is exactly what Hatebreed fans want and in their new record’s opening minutes, they deliver on all fronts.
The following two tracks, including the lead single (and title track), fall on the opposite side of the scales. Replacing aggression with Jasta’s power in positivity, a trademark of Hatebreed’s lyrical content, the record takes a dip in quality. Though Hatebreed’s positive side has always been as on the nose as a punch square in the face, the lyrical content is so cliche that the tracks start to feel uninspired. After a straight out of the gate opening, the record begins to slow. As this breakneck energy fades, it begins to show the cracks in what a 2020 Hatebreed record looks like with predictable tracks leading up to breakdowns that can’t salvage them. A large portion of this record is made up of songs that feel like they were created through a machine that was fed the band’s previous work and is doing a hollow impersonation.
The moments that stand out are the ones that distance themselves in some way from the extremely formulaic parts. Several of the more thrash-inspired tracks pick up the energy a bit and stand out against the Hatebreed-by-the-numbers selection. Though, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, they’re essentially built on a Slayer riff but with added Jasta, these moments that carry a little more energy are vital. The middle and end points of the tracklist, tracks 6 and 12 titled ‘A Stoke of Red’ and ‘Invoking Dominance’, do away with the greetings card style mantras and focus more on straight-up aggression and power. With the latter featuring an almost Trivium-style intro, it gives way to a riff that hits so much harder because of the build-up, space and time that it was given to breathe.
For diehard fans of Hatebreed, this record has enough moments of quality to fit into a live set without distracting from the band’s catalog of classics. Unfortunately, as a complete package, these moments are few and far between on a record that feels overwhelmed with mediocrity. With every track coming in and around the 3-minute mark, there are still moments that feel all too predictable even on first listen. For a band that does one specific thing really well, the quality of the material is not strong enough to make a rather one-dimensional record an engaging listen from cover-to-cover.
Hatebreed’s ‘Weight of the False Self’ is available on the 27th November via Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-order the album in a variety of formats from the Hatebreed official website.