Connecticut metalcore band Hatebreed have been going since the mid 90s, one of the few bands to weather the grunge-ruled music scene at the time. Almost despite this, they have put out a staggeringly consistent, steady, awesome stream of albums since ’97, whether it was their earlier work like Perseverance or Supremacy, right through to their 2017 album, The Concrete Confessional. The metal titans are back in 2020 with their new album, Weight of the False Self. Being a relatively new fan of the band, only the last few years or so, I’m excited to finally check out a new release in full for the first time, let’s see how it is!
In typical Hatebreed fashion, the band immediately burst into the heaviness and vocals with opening track Instinctive (Slaughterlust). Jamey Jasta’s powerful, harsh vocals begin immediately, backed by stabs of heavy drum and bass with every syllable he hits. It’s an awesome, blunt force way to open an album. It soon opens out into a chuggy, slow but still thrashy guitar riff, it being the chorus as it isn’t long before the chanting gang vocals chime in with calls of ‘instinctive!’ The song stays at a similar sort of level heading into the next verse but that is in no way a bad thing, the song is relentless, heavy battering, and it’s great. Typical faster, almost hip-hop inspired vocal delivery fills the verse, giving it a bouncier feel. The drums kick into double-time during the pre-chorus, adding more depth and somehow making it even heavier. It then seamlessly transitions back into the intro stabs and staggered vocals, clearly the first half of the chorus. Instead of going into another chorus after the second verse instead the band let the last note of the pre-chorus ring out, slowly building back up with low, steady drums and some feedback sounds before exploding into a slow, chuggy, heavy AF breakdown to serve as an outro. The band chant the song title a few times and, just to add to the heaviness, we get a mediumly angry ‘bleh’ before the song stops dead, ending. This was awesome, a great way to open an album and the usual awesome Hatebread tropes are laced throughout. Playlisted.
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Let Them All Rot opens on a big guitar riff and some insane, rolling drum fills. I feel like Matt Byrne gets nowhere near as much credit as he should do, his drumming so far on this album has been incredible. The way he dropped back to just cymbals when the vocals came in was awesome, leaving mainly just the vocals and the distorted, heavy guitar chords. The lyrics, as with most Hatebread songs, are overly aggressive and angsty, almost comically so, but they somehow still fit pretty well with the equally aggressive music behind them. The song again opens vocally with a surprisingly catchy chorus, one easy for a crowd to chant to and get involved with, which is always a huge plus. The verse is another mid-tempo, chuggy, guitar lead one, similarly quickly spat vocals over the top, much like the opening song. Following a similar structure to the opening song, after the second verse everyone drops out aside a great guitar riff and some low toms from Byrne, a great start to a breakdown. It builds up into an awesome, slow breakdown/outro, the band accompanying Jamey in shouting the chorus over the top of it before it again ends abruptly. Another great song, and a great album so far.
Expectedly, Set it Right (Start With Yourself) opens on the chorus, Jamey’s vocals being the first thing you hear alongside a higher guitar riff. It’s not quite as catchy as the previous song, though that may just be because it lacks the backing vocals Rot had. The more open guitar and drum work through the verse was a welcome change, no chugging and instead letting the chords ring out. If anything, it made it sound even heavier, especially when it speeds up again heading into the chorus. Instead of a breakdown this time we get a thrash-style bridge guitar riff, Frank Novinec showing off his chops. The song also follows a more traditional song structure than the others, heading into a final chorus before it ends. Another enjoyable song!
The lead single and title track of the album, Weight of the False Self, is up next. It fades in with some guitar feedback before Jamey comes in, though I’m not sure this time if it’s the verse or the chorus. As much as I do like this band, the opening of this song sounds almost identical to one of their ‘hits’, I Will Be Heard, just minus the bass. That song was released 18 years ago now and they’re still doing the same sort of thing. I enjoy their music, don’t get me wrong, but if I ragged on AC/DC for doing it, I have to rag on Hatebreed for doing the same. There is a reason this is the first full album I’ve listened to by the band. The structure of this song was all over the place, too. It felt like it was almost all chorus. The lyrics don’t stop being repetitive until a minute and a half in, and in a two-and-a-half-minute song that isn’t the greatest. Especially when it’s for barely 15 seconds before it goes back into another chorus. I have to admit, though, the half-timed chorus at the end was pretty badass and heavy, the only highlight to a pretty average single.
I cannot help but continue to draw comparisons to their previous songs as the opening riff of Cling to Life bears a striking resemblance to the one from Looking Down the Barrel of Today (why do some bands feel the need to have such long song titles?). This riff at least has room to breathe, though, unlike the other song, as it transitions into another riff before Jamey starts singing. Another chuggy verse leads into a catchy, chanting pre-chorus, another one that would do great live and get the crowd joining in. If anything, it’s catchier than the chorus. I was caught off guard after the second verse when we got an actual guitar solo, too. It starts out slow and pretty basic, but it fit perfectly with the feel of the song and the music behind it. It gets a little faster as the song builds back up into another verse and chorus before it ends as abruptly as the others. From the solo alone, this song actually edged its way into my playlist.
Just when I felt like I’d heard all this album had to offer, A Stroke of Red kicks in and is more like a groove metal song than a metalcore one. A simple, heavy guitar opening riff gives way to a bouncy, groove-oriented verse, driving through by low, pounding bass and a basic but effective drumbeat. It’s great. Even the chorus is rather simple and reserved compared to the rest of the songs, a nice change of pace from an otherwise similar album. There’s even another short little solo after the first chorus, this feels like a completely different band. It speeds up into a massive thrash riff coming out of the second chorus, heavy and fast. Of course, after that we get another epic breakdown, and honestly this is the best song I’ve heard on this album so far. The lyrics are still juvenile and repetitive, but it’s a minor gripe with an otherwise great song. Another for the playlist
Unfortunately, after this song the back half of the album gets a little formulaic. As I have said before in previous reviews, me saying this does not necessarily mean that the songs in the album are bad. It just means that, given my style of reviewing, I don’t think the rest of the songs stood out enough from the previous ones to warrant me talking about them all individually. All six are enjoyable crossover thrash/metalcore songs that, if you like any other Hatebreed song, you’ll most likely like them too. They are fast, heavy and full of aggression and angst. However, that is the same way I would use to describe the first half of the album too. Good songs, if all a bit similar to the rest of the band’s body of work. The AC/DC effect is in full swing with this band.
Overall, I did enjoy this album. While I ragged on it for it all sounding very similar, I still liked the music and it was definitely an enjoyable way to spend 35 minutes. As I said, if you are a fan of this band you will like this album. I just found that listening to it from front to back was a bit much, and will most likely stick to just a few at a time, or jamming out when the odd song comes on my playlist.
If you like this review, you might also like to read The Human Condition Review
The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths