Released: 2006, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When I first opened the envelope, I took one look at the song titles—“The Faggot In You,” “Right To Rape”—and immediately dismissed Clawfinger’s HATE YOURSELF WITH STYLE as a hate-filled, misogynistic, by-the-numbers hardcore album. I filed this away for a week and had absolutely no interest in giving it a second thought. After looking a bit further, I realized that despite releasing albums steadily since 1993, Sweden’s Clawfinger had slipped under my metal radar and the tracks on HATE YOURSELF WITH STYLE actually condemned, not endorsed, the vile actions described in the song titles. With that, I gave the CD a second chance and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The band’s hardcore-tinged metal is peppered with plenty of hook-filled melodies and Zak Tell’s voice is something of a hybrid between John Bush’s bark, Trent Reznor’s rasp and Page Hamilton’s spoken sneers. The mid-90s sound on a few of the tracks is definitely a bit dated but overall, HATE YOURSELF WITH STYLE is an agreeable way to whittle away forty minutes.
“The Faggot In You,” a track which seemed spiteful and offensive at first glance, is actually a barbed retort against homophobia (“What is there to fear/The truth of the matter is that you’re actually queer”), while “Right To Rape” condemns the social disparity between sexual assault victims and their predators ("If a woman raped a man /Would the verdict be the same?"). If that doesn’t ruffle enough feathers, “God Is Dead” tackles religion and reduces it to a myth. Politically- and socially-charged lyrics are hardly a novel idea in metal however Clawfinger succeeds by never coming across as heavy-handed a la System of a Down or Rage Against The Machine. While the lyrics of the above-mentioned tracks leave little to the imagination in terms of where they are going, things never devolve into preachy territory. Along the way, the melodic choruses of “Dirty Lies” and “Without A Case” burrow inside your brain and show that this band knows their way around a hook, too. The bouncing groove in the verses of “Hypocrite” coincide with the moshpit mayhem generated by “Breakout (Embrace The Child Inside You)” demonstrating that Clawfinger can lay down a heavy riff as easily as they can pen a memorable one.
Where HATE YOURSELF WITH STYLE fails is in the fact that with so many divergent styles on one CD, the album lacks cohesion. While this can be excused in a band who is on their first or second album, Clawfinger is coming up on eighteen years of existence and not having a sense of direction after this much time is definitely a critical liability. Also, the band seems to be stuck in a bit of a time-warp. Some of the riffs that they have written here ("Sick of Myself" being a prime example) still hearken back at times to their rap-metal roots and Tell’s delivery echoes that of something off a Helmet CD from 1995.
HATE YOURSELF WITH STYLE is an album that will probably be an easy sell to the Clawfinger devotees but for those who see the words “rap-metal” that instantly conjures images of Fred Durst talking about “doing it all for the nookie,” this may be a tough market to crack. I can’t imagine Tell sporting a red baseball cap and this is about as far away from the dreaded nu-metal umbrella as can be, so there is no fear of that. Truth be told, after opening my own mind to what Clawfinger has to say on this release certainly surprised me and there is enough here to recommend checking the CD out to those willing to do the same.
KILLER KUTS: “The Faggot In You,” “Dirty Lies,” “Breakout (Embrace The Child Inside You),” “Right To Rape,” “Hypocrite,” “Without A Case”