HATEBREED – Weight Of The False Self

HATEBREED – Weight Of The False Self

James Vincent "Jamey Jasta" Shanahan is an interesting if a controversial figure in American metalcore. Much like Philip Hansen Anselmo, over the course of his musical career, because he is a bald screaming white hardcore right-winger, he has been accused of homophobia and xenophobia, and is supposed to be easily prone to violence. However, while in Anselmo’s case, some of the infamy is apparently deserved (even by his own admission), in Jamey’s the evidence is at best inconclusive and at worst contrived by a SINGLE witness who shall remain nameless and who had already been prejudiced even in his own article against Jasta and Hatebreed, which becomes crystal clear once you compare Jamey’s lyrics in Hatebreed, Jasta or Kingdom Of Sorrow against his accuser’s alleged threats towards that individual. Perhaps some propensity for violence is present and even evident in some cases but it’s more likely that it had been used to acribe to Jamey much more evil than he really deserves. In any case, one thing about the man remains consistent: his ability to write interesting catchy and incredibly heavy music, heavier than most "metalcore" out there. The 8th Hatebreed album, 26 year into the band’s existence is, in essence, the explosive debut "Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire" (1997) updated for modern technology, with signs that Hatebreed is willing to cross into thrash and melodic metal much more effectively than in the past, for, in effect, the most devastating release in their career.

To me, the Bridgeport, Connecticut construct has always been the sweet spot between Pantera and Biohazard which, since they both had atrophied shortly after Hatebreed’s conception, Hatebreed replaced. Already the debut EP "Under The Knife" (1996) signaled the arrival of a titan but it was the aforementioned "Satisfaction…" (released around the time of Pantera’s "The Great Southern Trendkill" and Biohazard’s "Mata Leão", both steps down in the bands’ discography) which thundered through the hardcore scene while simultaneously marrying it to metal for the first time. Sure, Biohazard, Pantera and Machine Head had metallized the genre before but never was it done so blatantly and obviously and with such powerful ferociousness. Despite its barely 20 minute length both the album and the band were put on a short list of bands to watch out for.

Personally, I, for one reason or another, lost track of these guys after I had been blown away by their debut, but 4 albums later I remember being impressed by "Divinity Of Purpose" (2013) as well as the subsequent Jamey’s solo album "Jasta" (2014), although, admittedly not long enough to get glued to either one, though I continued to appreciate a single here and there from "Concrete Confessional" (2016). My attention was drawn to Hatebreed again upon viewing the excellent "Instinctive (Slaughterlust)" video which made me think of Biohazard’s "Down For Life" (from the fantastic "State Of The World Address") as well as Slayer’s "Ditto" (from "Divine Intervention" album) (both released in 1994), but even more so of Hatebreed’s debut. ("It should be illegal to make a song this heavy" would later say Hatebreed’s guitarist Frank Novinec and I concurr). I had thought, if Hatebreed were going back to their beginnings with producer Christopher "Zeuss" Harris, one of the best metal producers on the market, to update the 1997’s Steve Evetts, then this could be an album worth checking out for review and this turned to be the right decision on my part.

Already I have mentioned the opener which is one of the best songs on the album and an excellent choice for the 1st single but this album has no weak moments. Definitely check out the early Machine Headian thrasher "The Herd Will Scatter" which strongly recalls God Forbid’s "Crucify Your Beliefs", my personal favorite not just for the music but also for the excellent Biblical lyrics based on "Matthew 25:29; 26:21", (whereby interestingly, Jamey made me think of David Randall Blythe, Lamb Of God and "Vigil" not just for the lyrics) and, if you like Hatebreed for their ferocioussness then also "Wings of The Vulture" or the closer "Invoking Dominance" should be to your liking. There’s plenty of classic hardcore for you in ""From Gold To Gray", "Let Them All Rot", "Set It Right (Start With Yourself)" or in the title track, but I find those tracks dominated by melody, such as the Vision Of Disorder-styled ""Cling to Life" or the "Symphony Of Destruction" Megadethly midpacer ""A Stroke Of Red", the most impressive and satisfying, the aforementioned "Herd…" a perfect blend of the old and the modern approach. Indeed, "Weight Of The False Self" is a good start and a big step in the right direction but it seems that this more melodic, shall we say, even progressive approach is not fully adopted in all tracks, but I do expect it to be expanded on the next album.

As mentioned before, the lyrical aspect is of significance because, to quote Jasta, "reality consists of two irreducible elements, expressed by the age-old interior battle of the dualistic self. The angel on one shoulder stands firm, providing reason, wisdom, and compassion while the devil dances angrily on the other, ranting with passion, spite, and dark desire. I often wonder if a truly centered mind is attainable, an effortless and non-dualistic state of equilibrium. Until then, I’ll just listen to both sides of my personality and hope I make the right choice. At the end of the day, the listener will choose to hear what they want, but when I am writing, I imagine the voice of the angel to be a lil’ louder." Now, judge for yourself, does this sound like words of a man overcome by passion for racist or gaybashing vulgar displays of power?

Whatever you think of Jamey Jasta there’s no denying that Hatebreed’s new production is ferocious, heavy as the U.S. Capitol’s roof, serious as a heart attack and adorned with insightful wise lyrics such as "there’s nothing you deserve you get what you earn" and "be bound to your word, when you live by it you prove your worth", the quintet that is Jasta, Novinec (guitars), Wayne Lozinak (guitars), Chris Beattie (bass) and Matt Byrne (drums) firing on all cylinders, as if the world really were to end this year and this was the soundtrack to the apocalypse. If you’re a fan you know what to expect and do but I also recommend it to the new listeners who appreciate albums like Biohazard’s aforementioned "State Of The World Address" or "New World Disorder" or the aforementioned "Day Of Reckoning" by Diecast. Hatebreed, you have my attention again.