Like Bart Simpson once noted, making teens depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel. Musical trends will come and go, but one thing that will always remain is music that panders to the whole “us versus them” mentality of teen rebellion. Some do it with more cleverness than others, and some attack the subject with all the subtlety of a bloody mallet. You’ve got a thirtysomething clown like Fred Durst claiming he’s a spokesman for a generation he’s not even a part of, corporate hacks like Good Charlotte calculatedly tapping into the surly teenage girl market, and then there’s a band like Hatebreed, who try to speak for the Ozzfest kids. On their 2002 album Perserverance, they pretty much nailed the whole aggro, churning, woe-is-me punk metal schtick. With lyrics like, “This is for the kids who have nowhere to turn / Who have nothing to live for / You think you haven’t the will to persist / You have to search within yourself”, it comes off as sincere, but the shameless recycling of lyrical themes used a decade or so earlier by the likes of Poison and Bon Jovi makes this music laughable to anyone older than the age of 13.
Following in the steps of New York hardcore bands like Sick of It All, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags, Hatebreed blends the shout-along lyrics, and musical economy of the hardcore genre with a metal sensibility, combining breakneck speed with slower, more churning sounds. The band’s newest release, The Rise of Brutality remains faithful to that sound, which will please fans, but to the rest of us, it’s more of the same thing that’s been done to death since the early ‘80s. Yet Hatebreed’s earnestness is admirable; what this album lacks in originality is made up by the amount of enthusiasm in the music. Lead howler Jamey Jasta leads the charge, with his guttural, typically nu-metal screams, spewing lines any angry young punk would love to hear, acting like a motivational speaker with his lyrics: “Your doubt, it fuels me / Your hate, it drives me / The challenge ignites me / You make me fight harder”. He’s no Henry Rollins, but the man does get his point across.
The best moments on the new album are the songs that encourage audience participation, and there’s no shortage of good, albeit goofy, prototypical call-and-response hardcore here. The propulsive “Tear It Down” (with a chorus of, “TEAR IT DOWN!”) segues immediately into the typical hardcore speed of “Straight to Your Face” (“STRAIGHT TO YOUR FACE!”), complete with a nasty, mosh-inducing middle section. Then there’s the metal-infused “Facing What Consumes You” (“DOUBT ME! HATE ME!”), and the pummeling “This Is Now” (“THIS IS NOW ... NOW!”), which combine the hardcore aesthetic with the grinding sound of nu-metal. Hatebreed is a simple band (I mean that in a complimentary way), and they’re good when they keep things simple, something best exemplified on “Live for This” (“LIVE FOR THIS ... LIVE! LIVE!”), with guitarist Sean Martin’s simple, metal-by-numbers riff, and the rare opportunity for drummer Matt Byrne to provide some real, Vinnie Paul-style (you know, the dude from Pantera) percussive thunder. “Confide in No One” is a straightforward homage to classic death metal, where the entire band shines, especially Jasta’s ferocious vocal work.
The Rise of Brutality is a neat and tidy 32 minutes long, but still, too much of the music is too one-dimensional, and too many of the songs (“Doomsayer”, “A Lesson Lived Is a Lesson Learned”, “Voice of Contention”) just bring out the same, lazy nu-metal riffs, making for some boring moments. This is decent, old-school hardcore, but this is hardly an album that will go on to define the genre. Hatebreed means well, but too many have done this before, and with much more style. Angry young metal fans would be much better off getting Slayer’s Reign in Blood and Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power if they want to unleash some aggression. Over a decade later, you still can’t go wrong with those albums.