Back in the late ’90s, Hatebreed was innovative and bordering on groundbreaking. By performing heavy metal within the boundaries of hardcore punk, the Connecticut band helped set the template of the dominant form of metal in the early ’00s. Others had done the same but it remains a pillar in the evolution of its genre.
Twenty-three years later it still sounds like as it did back then.
Weight of the False Self is its eighth album and they all follow the same formula of simultaneously angry and inspirational songs. The shouted lyrics of vocalist Jamey Jasta and aggressive, shredding guitars courtesy of Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinec makes you want to tear down a brick wall with your forehead. Essentially, if Dethklok from Metalocalypse became motivational speakers, that’s more or less the musical output of Hatebreed—this album included.
Like a modern-day AC/DC, there’s not really reason for Hatebreed to change because it hasn’t been left behind by the musical landscape. This band in 1997 sounded like metalcore in 2020. The songs on Weight of the False Self feature same tone, same tempo, same vocal style and same structure. The album starts at 100 MPH and holds that speed until the end, the only feigning nod to power ballads in the intro to closer “Invoking Dominance,” before going right back to normal. The closest it gets to bringing it down is when the guitarists shred at the exact same speed but Chris Beattie turns up the heaviness on his bass.
And it’s glorious. One doesn’t listen to Hatebreed to be taken on a journey through an emotional soundscape after all, one listens to Hatebreed to be driven at full speed through the center median, across four lanes of oncoming traffic, and off an overpass into a river. And this delivers.
“Primitive bloodlust fills my mind/ My vision’s clear, my instincts strong/ I am the vicious one,” Jasta grows on opener “Instinctive (Slaughterlust),” his lyrics dripping with boastful aggression. Then, on the title track: “If you want to make a difference in the world it means/ You have to be different from the world you see/ Free yourself from burdens that you know exist/ Don’t carry the curse of the fatalist.” It’s the sort of thing that’s inspirational and motivational to someone who knows how to clean a mixture of beer and blood out of a battle vest.
The album isn’t just direct and heavy-handed but literally screamed in your face repeatedly. But delicate, intellectual subtlety doesn’t work on everyone, and everyone deserves an uplifting message in the way that speaks most to them.
Weight of the False Self isn’t an introspective, personal journey like Taylor Swift’s folklore, and it’s not a hard-hitting commentary on the modern sociopolitical landscape like Run the Jewels’ RTJ4, but in a way it’s just as illustrative of 2020. Yes, the year has been serious and emotional at times. Yes, politics have gotten much more severe and personal. But there’s also a lot of frustration and rage, a lot of figuratively or literally screaming motivational quotes at yourself to get through the day. And just like those more celebrated, mainstream albums, there’s value to listening to music that channels those feelings.
Just don’t expect a whole lot of musical evolution.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.