For those familiar with the past output of hardcore legends Hatebreed, the band’s founder, vocalist and lyricist, Jamey Jasta, is like having a personal trainer in your life—you don’t actually want him spitting motivational diatribes in your ear-hole as you sweat profusely, but your sure as hell feel the benefit afterwards. Hatebreed are a hardcore institution, and comparisons to drill sergeants, stern leaders etc. have all been leveled at the feet of Jasta since the band’s formation in 1994. It’s an apt comparison, evident as soon as you hear his barked yet coherent vocal delivery and read through his lyrics based on matters of honor, rising up against adversity and self-improvement—lyrical themes synonymous with Hatebreed’s style of hardcore which helped make Victory Records name in the ‘90s.
The Divinity of Purpose is the band’s sixth studio record, and their first release since 2009’s self-titled effort sees Jasta chomping at the bit while every one of the band’s sonic signifiers remains intact: Matt Byrne’s frills-free drumming focused on bolstering the chugging riffs courtesy of guitarists Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novenic that vary in tempo and stylistically touch on bands such as Slayer and Madball in equal measure. But what else would you expect from Hatebreed? This band is the hardcore equivalent of Motörhead, AC/DC and every other artist that releases records which staunchly stick to their established sound; those who want vast experimentation from Hatebreed are clearly missing the point.
Like every band that blatantly refuse to alter what brought them to the table, strong songwriting and even stronger hooks must form the basis of each record in order to avoid becoming tiresome and slipping into repetition. It’s not something Hatebreed have always been able to maintain—their previous two records lacked the requisite bite—but The Divinity of Purpose contains musical/vocal hooks galore in the same vein as the band’s heavyweight past achievements, 2002’s Perseverance and 2003’s The Rise of Brutality.“Honor Never Dies” has to stand as one of the best songs Hatebreed has ever written. Its syncopated grooves come across like Meantime-era Helmet with Jasta roaring, “Sometimes, standing for what you believe means standing alone” in his typically defiant style. It keeps energy levels high following the incendiary opener “Put It to the Torch”, and from here Hatebreed never look back.
From the inspirational “Own Your World” and its gang-chant mantras and powerful chorus of “Fist up, head high, we own the fucking world tonight,” to the cross-over thrash of “The Language” and the punky “Indivisible”, each slamming riff is primed to serve its purpose opening pits at live shows. It’s this constant dedication to making sure the songs that appear on record have a positive message and translate well in a live setting that has made Hatebreed a pillar of the hardcore community. And unlike the younger metal/hardcore bands, Hatebreed’s maturity when it comes to songwriting means that the use of breakdowns (“Bitter Truth”, “Boundless”) and half-time smackdowns (“Before the Fight”, “Nothing Scars”) are utilized at the most effectual of moments, and because of their sparse insertion they have the desired impact upon the listener.
But it’s “Dead Man Breathing” and “The Divinity of Purpose” where Hatebreed’s song-writing really excels; both songs containing that anthemic quality found in the best adrenaline-spiking hardcore—a supreme balance between being catchy with memorable shout-alongs and musically powerful. This sublimely packaged record thrives because of these moments, and as a result, The Divinity of Purpose rivals anything Hatebreed have previously released. Older, wiser, with more fire in their bellies than they’ve shown in years, this hardcore mainstay finally has its bite back.