[16 May 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Ask any veteran musician, and they’ll tell you that if you want to play music for a living, you have to be 100% committed to it, because you’ll find out pretty quickly that it’s a tough, tough line of work. With the current emocore trend reaching critical mass as young bands become overnight successes thanks to one catchy tune, a carefully-primped hairstyle, and in excess of 100,000 MySpace “friends”, it seems more and more acts are forming without fully realizing that there’s a lot more to paying one’s dues than streaming an MP3 on the Internet. Take Orange County’s LoveHateHero, for instance. They impressed Ferret Records so much with their self-financed debut album that the trendy label inks them to a sweet deal. Four tours later, vocalist Pierrick Berube and bassist Paris Bosserman found themselves suddenly abandoned by the other three members, with one of them absconding with the band’s tour van. This biz ain’t for the weak-willed, and except for the lucky few, it’s about as far from glamorous as you can get.
Give Berube and Bosserman credit, though, as they’ve refused to let something as seemingly catastrophic as seeing their band without 60% of its members faze them. Enter drummer Scott Gee, rhythm guitarist Myke Russell, and a young phenom (so young, he’s only just finished high school) named Kevin Gruft on lead guitar, and now with a second album under their belts, LoveHateHero are back for another bid for the big time. And judging by the sound of White Lies, success just might be within their grasp.
While more and more post-hardcore bands try desperately to come up with some kind of gimmick to separate themselves from their fellow preening pubescent peers, LoveHateHero takes a simpler approach, working within the rather clichéd framework of the sound (equally derived from Thursday and A Wilhelm Scream), and coming up with some songs that might not exactly take the genre into bold new territory, but display enough capable song craft and technical ability to raise a few eyebrows. In fact, the approach the band takes on White Lies is not unlike budding Canadian stars Silverstein, in that the ferocious metalcore riffs appeal to the guys, while the inescapable vocal hooks appeal to the girls, with the quintet careful not to offend either side.
White Lies shoots right out of the gate with the barnstorming “Goodbye My Love”, driven by the dual harmonies of Russell and Gruft (shades of Swedish melodic death metal) and the propulsive 2/4 drumming of Gee, Berube howling in a strong tenor voice, showing he’s capable of expressing tenderness yet versatile enough to display a more robust singing voice. Gruft is the real revelation here, as the kid lets loose a terrific power metal solo that walks the line between ‘80s excess and tasteful expressiveness. “You Got Served” is downright metal in its arrangement, the rhythm section forming a mighty anchor during the muscular breakdown, while the opening salvos of the chugging “To the End” could pass for something by At the Gates or In Flames; so effective is the blend of aggression and melody on the latter track, that an underachieving band like As I Lay Dying can learn a thing or two from these youngsters.
LoveHateHero is not above trying a little tenderness, too, and the drippy-yet-catchy “Amity” is an effective emocore ballad, Bossington providing Michael Anthony-like harmony vocals underneath Berube’s confident melodies. “Move On” hints at the more spacious sounds of Thrice, while the admittedly lovely “Red Dress” is built around a piano melody and Gruft’s chiming lead fills. “I’ll Make It to Brigades” most successfully bridges the metal and the emo, a startlingly dynamic bit of songwriting, pummeling riffs, stately guitar melodies, angst-ridden screaming, massive breakdowns, and contagious vocal melodies all finding room to work on the three and a half minute track.
White Lies does suffer from a slight lack of focus, as a handful of songs late in the album tend to meander (“She Puts the Ho in Homewrecker” is just plain dumb), but for the most part, it’s a confident album by a band that appears to have found its niche. The songwriting has improved, the musicianship destroys the last album, the hooks are ever-present, and for once, the lineup appears to be stable enough for LoveHateHero to make a serious name for itself in the oversaturated genre. And this time, you can bet Berube and Bosserman will be hanging on to the keys to the van this time around.