Hawthorne Heights - Zero
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Record Label: Red Entertainment
The first time I heard Hawthorne Heights, I didn't much like them. Being honest, I thought their debut album, 2004's The Silence in Blackand White, fell into the same trap as a lot of debuts -- many of the songs sounded the same. 2011's EP Hate piqued my interest in the band again, and last year’s Hope only reaffirmed it. When I first heard The Silence, I didn't expect to be singing Hawthorne Heights' praises, but nine years is a long time for a band to grow, and Zero is the band's best offering yet
Their fifth full-length album, and first for Red Entertainment, follows in the style of the previous two EPs in incorporating amore accessible pop-punk influence into their style, leaving behind most of the post-hardcore sound the band was previously known for. Songs like “Memories of Misery” and “Spark” demonstrate this well. The latter track is the best on the album and one of the best in HH’s discography. Boasting a massive chorus and a “whoa-oh”-laden bridge, this track is the best example of the sound of Zero.
While the band dabbles in pop-punk territory frequently throughout Zero, don’t think that’s all this album is. The album begins with “Skeletons Remain (Transmission #1),” a stark ballad, while the penultimate track (but last actual song) “Taken by the Dark” is the heaviest on the album, having more in common with HH’s early material than the rest of the album and featuring guitarist Micah Carli screaming out the song’s bridge by himself. He also has a vocal appearance in the chorus of “Put Me Back Together,” although the screaming is limited to background vocals. The album contains an acoustic ballad, entitled “Hollow Hearts Unite,” which includes strings. It’s certainly different from the rest of the album, but proves to be one of the record’s biggest missteps, as it comes off as slightly cheesy and disrupts the album's flow.
Aside from just the genre, what especially sets Zero apart from the rest of HH’s discography is how much better the band sounds. JT Woodruff’s smooth voice fits the band’s new poppier sound far better than it did the post-hardcore one; he’s never sounded better. Eron Bucciarelli’s drumming leads the songs “Spark” and “Zero,” while it’s difficult to imagine the Mark McMillon and Micah Carli of even five years ago performing songs like “Lost in the Calm,” not to mention how bassist Matt Ridenour's solo shines on the title track. Even Woodruff’s lyrics are at their top here. Take first single “Golden Parachutes,” in which he sings, ”Die for the golden parachutes/ it isn’t your life that’s left to lose.” But while Hate was drenched in negativity and Hope was a somewhat happier affair, Zero finds itself somewhere in between. For every ”Zero/ you are my only hope,” there’s a ”My darling, I will not let this die/ and our voices cannot be tamed.” Another good example is the song “Hollow Hearts Unite,” in which the rather dismal lyrics, ”She's got holes in both sides ofher heart/ She's been crying while lying in the dark,” are followed by a repeated refrain of ”But I think I can save her.” Lyrically, there is an aura of bleakness found here, but there still seems a glimmer of hope.
Honestly, Zero isn’t an album that requires uninterrupted listening, as the songs hold up perfectly fine on their own. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time, though. Hawthorne Heights gets better with every release, and Zero is their best effort yet. The band has honed their talents and refined their music nearly enough to be a different band, and one that sounds better than ever before. I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next release.