Hawthorne Heights – Hope
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Record Label: Cardboard Empire
If you would have told me in 2005 that Hawthorne Heights would be thriving in the DIY scene, I would have laughed hysterically right in your face. They had just debuted in the top 3 of the Billboard Charts with If Only You Were Lonely, selling hundreds of thousands of records, and selling out shows everywhere. But now they are becoming poster boys for the DIY scene, as they are set to release their second Cardboard Empire record, Hope – the sequel to 2011’s angry and despair-ridden Hate. It’s always a risky move to go the DIY route. Instead it has reinvigorated the band's creativity and their career, as Hate relieved any doubt fans might have had about Camp HH going down the DIY road. The band’s previous popularity and their drive to create something meaningful for their selves and their fans have resulted in the band embracing the DIY scene as its most unlikely champions. After unleashing some pent-up aggression on Hate, the Ohio quartet turn to optimism on Hope, combining the intensity from Hate with the melodies that gained so many fans years ago.
Hope begins like its predecessor, opening the 8 song EP with part two to “There Was A Kid.” It continues the theme heard on Hate, but this time the strum of an acoustic guitar leads the song with lead man JT Woodruff crooning “Sing a song a hope” beneath the despair-ridden narrative, leaving a sliver of light at the end of the bleak picture painted here. The band then rips into “New Winter,” showcasing their brand of aggressive post-hardcore, aided by the urgency of Woodruff's vocals and guitarist Micah Carli's screams. “New Winter” unleashes the kind of massive chorus that made the band so popular in the first place and closes with a delightful cameo from Avery Woodruff (JT's young daughter). The band finds familiar footing with the fist-in-the-air pop-punk anthem “Running In Place (NIKI AM),” a sort-of sequel to their incredibly popular 2005 single “Niki FM.”
But don't think that the band is just relying on their past techniques and styles, as the quartet continues pushes their boundaries as musicians. Hawthorne Heights flex their muscles on the punishing “Stranded,” as the intentional monotony of the verses builds into the fiery chorus. Woodruff's vocals crackle with brimstone throughout the song, which displays the type of “heavy” music HH excels at. The real curveball on Hope is the fantastic “Nowhere Fast,” which honestly wouldn't sound out of place on the latest Murder By Death album. A lone guitar chord looks for its way around Eron Bucciarelli's steady drum beat and Woodruff's calm tone. It's the song that will have fans and non-fans alike doing a double take when the first time they hit “play.”
The album's anthem (or theme, if you will) comes up on “Vandemonium,” an ode to being on road, playing shows, and living out your dreams. Group vocals, shouts, and screams pace the song, as it's bound to be the new fan favorite at the next Hawthorne show. “Chemicals” ends the album with an aggressive burst of energy, as Woodruff concludes Hope by exclaiming, “These chemicals are all I know/they take me through the highs and lows,” before segueing the album with an instrumental reprise of “There Was A Kid” (in preparation of the final chapter of their EP trilogy).
While still not roses and sunshine, Hope is (obviously) a lot more positive and optimistic that Hate. Both EP's share themes, but the latest collection of HH songs lets the listener know that not all is lost in life and that we'll have to overcome obstacles to reach that place of happiness. And what better band to get that message from than Hawthorne Heights? The band has been to hell and back and have lived to tell their story, which has resulted in the band's best album to date.
If I had a dime for every time a person shunned away the mere mention of Hawthorne Heights, I'd be a millionaire. Wish people would get over their "slit my wrist and black my eyes" preconceived notions...they may just like what they hear today.
I haven't been a fan of this band since they were popular. Is it worth it to go back to Skeletons and start from there, or should I just grab this and Hate or is this their only album worth getting? I've moved on from the emo, screamo sound just wondering if this is worth my time.