Reviewed: January 2021
Released: 2020, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Jack Merry
Hailing from Connecticut, metalcore and hardcore punk outfit Hatebreed have unleashed their ninth studio album Weight of the False Self unto the world, and it arrives on the heels of the band’s sold-out 2019 anniversary shows and the unprecedented success of 2016’s The Concrete Confessional.
Renowned for their ability to provide an incredibly intense and cathartic release for their fans, Hatebreed challenged themselves and their writing style in order to produce material that is absolutely relatable in this scary and confusing new world flooded with over-stimulation, emotional dampening, and lack of social patience.
Regarding the new album, frontman Jamey Jasta says,
“When writing lyrics and riffs, I try to be in the moment, getting a mental picture of my current reality in order to convey what I want to say. Sometimes, I think my reality consists of two irreducible elements, expressed by the age-old interior battle of the dualistic self. The angel on one shoulder stands firm, providing reason, wisdom, and compassion while the devil dances angrily on the other, ranting with passion, spite, and dark desire. I often wonder if a truly centered mind is attainable, an effortless and non-dualistic state of equilibrium. Until then, I’ll just listen to both sides of my personality and hope I make the right choice. At the end of the day, the listener will choose to hear what they want, but when I am writing, I imagine the voice of the angel to be a lil’ louder.”
Everything you have come to expect from a new Hatebreed record is here, from Jasta’s trademark vocal grit to the relentless drumming and crushing guitar riffs that dominate the entire album. From the raging and breathless opener ‘Instinctive (Slaughterlust)’ to the more melodic and heavy closing track ‘Invoking Dominance’, Weight of the False Self is a non-stop thrill ride that grabs you by the throat absolutely does not let go over the course of its 34-minute runtime.
‘Let Them All Rot’ is a vicious razor-sharp riff that bounces atop propulsive drums from Matt Byrne, who states “There’s no shortage of beefy riffs and adrenaline-fueled drums on this record. I’m proud to say that we will consistently provide a soundtrack to which you can mosh in your living room and destroy your apartment.” Usually, quotes like this in the press for an album are normally taken with a pinch of salt, but I’m pleased to report this is not the case. By the time the direct third track ‘Set It Right (Start with Yourself)’ comes crashing through my speakers, the headbanging cannot be stopped.
Production on the record is also worth a mention, as Weight of the False Self sounds huge. Longtime Hatebreed collaborator and producer Zeuss has done another incredible job here making everything sound crystal clear and crushingly heavy at the same time.
‘Cling to Life’ feels like an antidote to these dark and uncertain times, speaking directly to the listener and telling us there is a light at the end of this tunnel. “How quickly life can change, how cruel it can be” laments Jasta, and how right he is too. ‘A Stroke of Red’ may be the darkest song for many; dealing with self-harming and mental illness. “Just another prisoner longing to be free, a stroke of red is all I need.” Some listeners may be able to relate to this song in particular; finding a light in the darkness, a realisation that they’re not alone in feeling that way and that it’s worth fighting. It’s also my favourite track on the album, with a grinding stop-start opening riff and a ridiculously catchy main guitar/bass section in the verses.
While still a solid track and worthy of inclusion on the record, I found ‘Dig Your Way Out’ to be the weakest track on the album, but mainly because one of the songs has to be at the bottom. It’s not bad by any means, but I did find myself skipping it on repeated listens. A solid guitar riff, pounding drums and a great vocal performance can’t seem to save this one, unfortunately. This is only emphasized by the next track, ‘This I Earned,’ being excellent and another highlight on an album packed full of killer moments.
‘From Gold to Gray’ has some very memorable riffs and vocal melodies, and ‘Wings of the Vulture’ is a chugging monster of a track that gives fans exactly what they’ve come to expect from a Hatebreed album. The only real negative I have is that Jamey Jasta’s voice does begin to wear thin during the second half of the album, as it’s incredibly monotonous. It’s a powerful voice that suits this kind of music, but as a complete listening experience, it starts to grate by track 10. I’m probably alone in thinking that, but it’s an observation I couldn’t ignore once I had noticed it. A little more vocal range may help add a dash of variety, but Hatebreed clearly have their own formula and it works for them.
Existing fans will adore this record, but some newcomers may have a tough time. I’d recommend starting with the band’s earlier material, such as Supremacy from 2006. I’m not the biggest fan of Hatebreed, yet Weight of the False Self has quickly cemented itself into both heavy rotation in my personal music library and one of the strongest metal albums of 2020.