He’s only 28 years old, but Jamey Jasta has put together quite a career over the past decade. Not only has his band Hatebreed become the biggest hardcore band in America, but the ambitious Jasta has done something many in the hardcore community would consider heresy: he’s become a renaissance man. His Stillborn record label has an impressive roster, having kick started the careers of such noteworthy young metalcore bands as Ringworm and the Autumn Offering. He’s become this decade’s Rikki Rachtman, having hosted MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball since 2003, and his Hatewear clothing line brings a little style to hardcore fans. Toss in several musical side projects, and you’ve got one busy fella. The trouble is, all the extraneous activities can easily distract from the only task at hand that matters, and while Hatebreed has always been a likeable band, its music has tended to sound stale with each new record.
Unlike the countless young bands imitating the mid-‘90s Swedish swagger of At the Gates and In Flames, Hatebreed is defiantly old school, more indebted to such seminal NYC hardcore acts as Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags, and the simplicity of the band’s music, from the no-frills, crunching guitars, to Jasta’s self-empowering lyrics, to his contagious, monosyllabic shout-along choruses, has gone over hugely with the younger crowd, making Hatebreed an OzzFest staple, not to mention an act with some serious clout. Four albums in, however, it’s time for Jasta and his band to prove they can do more than churn out the same repetitive hardcore as 2002’s Perseverance and 2003’s The Rise of Brutality, and to its credit, Hatebreed has returned more focused than ever, putting out one of the most pleasant surprises of 2006, not to mention the strongest album of their career.
Of course, as much of an improvement as Supremacy is over The Rise of Brutality, this is still a Hatebreed album, which means its primary purpose is to act as a showcase for Jasta’s self-involved lyrics, which are spewed in a monotone bark, and cover such self-help themed topics as self-respect, overcoming adversity, respecting others, and overcoming adversity, but Jasta’s domineering performance and continued dependence on one-word shout-outs (“HATE! HATE! HATE!”, “SPIT! SPIT! SPIT!”) is underscored by some truly superb back-up work by the rest of the band, which has been expanded to a quintet thanks to the addition of second guitarist Frank Novinec. Produced and mixed by Zeuss, the man responsible for such great-sounding albums by Shadows Fall and the Red Chord, the new album is clean yet pulverizing, and sure to win over more metal-oriented skeptics.
The double-time fury of “Defeatist” owes more to thrash metal than hardcore, the staccato riffs during the chorus smacking of mid-‘80s Slayer. The added guitarist fleshes out the band’s sound more, the lumbering “To the Threshold” benefiting tremendously from the tandem of Novinec and Sean Martin. “Give Wings to My Triumph” begins with a massive doom metal intro before bursting into a hardcore-by-way-of-Anthrax riff, then giving way to the usual one-note breakdown that the band loves to do, while bassist Chris Beattie carries “Destroy Everything” with a fat, nay, gargantuan groove that makes up for Jasta’s disturbingly Durstian worldview. The ascending chords on the painfully brief “Immortal Enemies” come dangerously close to the 80s power metal of Accept, while “Spitting Venom”, for all its simplicity, is impossible not to bob your head along to, and is sure to get the hardcore dancers windmilling in venues across North America.
While Jasta does tend to overdo it on every Hatebreed record (Supremacy comes with an extensive navel-gazing essay and detailed explanations of each song), his earnestness is hard to dislike, and for all the straightforwardness of his lyrics, he’s eloquent, passionate, and delivers positive messages to the kids. And for once, his band has delivered the complete package. Normally a boastful line like “To the Threshold”‘s “Now we’re stronger than ever!” would elicit groans from jaded cynics, but in Supremacy‘s case, it rings especially true.