For all intents and purposes, Hatebreed is the metalcore band that could. The Connecticut export successfully transcended the hardcore scene and took over the New Wave of American Metal for a hot minute. Vocalist Jamey Jasta even enjoyed a four-year run as the host of Headbanger’s Ball! The band has more or less stayed its course since its inception in 1994, relying on reliability instead of innovation. It seems the most popular complement given to more recent albums like The Divinity of Purpose (2013) and The Concrete Confessional (2016) is that they sound like Hatebreed for people who like Hatebreed. Weight of the False Self comes after 26 years of beating the same horse. Is the horse dead? Well… define alive.
Just by listening to the single “Instinctive (Slaughterlust),” it’s at least clear that Hatebreed hasn’t forgotten how to be Hatebreed. The track comes through with the hard-grooving, crowd-shouting uproar everyone knows these guys for. From galloping punk to chug-tastic breakdowns, this is metal made for turning a neighborhood mozey into an ultra-agro power walk. It’s certainly nice to hear Jasta’s voice retain its iconic timbre and projection, but hearing Bassist Chris Beattie say “it should be illegal to write a song this heavy” begs the question—have these guys heard Black Tongue or No Zodiac?
The arms race to play the heaviest music possible hasn’t stopped since Hatebreed hit its stride. It’s not that the manslaughter soundtrack “Let Them All Rot” can’t trigger a good stank face with its no-nonsense riffs, but even that concluding tempo drop lacks that “wow” factor when compared recent proliferation of downtempo and beatdown bands. The difference becomes more pronounced on the tough-talking self-help anthem “Set It Right (Start With Yourself)” and the “be different” mantra of the title track. Maybe it’s a sign of these more cynical times that these teetotaling calls to action don’t hit like they used to, even if that latter's syncopated fight riff provides an undeniable adrenaline rush.
The fact of the matter is tracks like “Cling To Life” and “Wings Of The Vulture” don’t offer anything that “Straight to Your Face” and “This Is Now” offered back in the day. Both cuts have Hatebreed’s classic barrel-chested mid-tempo metallic hardcore down to a science. That’s not exactly a good thing, as the wave of bands Hatebreed rode in got its charm from brazen, unpolished energy. Hearing the music in such an airtight framework threatens to illuminate that crucial factor from the equation.
The silver lining comes in the form of Hatebreed’s experience as songwriters, as there’s enough diversity to keep Weight of the False Self from getting too tedious. Drummer Matt Byrne doesn’t implement four-on-the-floor beats outside of “A Stroke Of Red” and “This I Earned,” which allows them to stand out from the other songs. The former goes full crossover thrash with Wayne Lozinak’s guitar solo, and there may never come a day where the former’s meat-headed, almost slammy mosh part doesn’t inspire hardcore fans young and old to punch strangers in the face.
The human race divides itself into two demographics: people who respond viscerally to a classic metallic hardcore breakdown, and those who don’t. Those who do will surely assume a fighting stance once the Slayer-worshiping thrash of “Dig Your Way Out” and “The Herd Will Scatter” slows down to knock teeth loose. The faster parts don’t regress into filler before the breakdowns, like many of the acts Hatebreed inspired. This is pretty incredible, considering how long they’ve been around. Much of Weight of the False Self is a rehash of the material that drove Hatebreed to the top 20 years ago, but at least the band sounds like they're having fun.
Christopher “Zeuss” Harris behind the mixing board helps Hatebreed embody, some of its essential components—particularly Frank Novinec’s killer rhythm guitar tone. Even though there's little to distinguish the way “From Gold To Gray” juxtaposes straight-ahead hardcore punk with stomping two-step grooves, it still gives suitable respect to Hatebreed's legacy. In fact, more recurrences of the evocative, melodic overtones of closer “Invoking Dominance" could have elevated this album into the upper echelon of the band's discography. The closing track’s more involved lead work needed more prominence to counterbalance the primitive anger.
It might sound harsh to ask if the world needs another The Rise of Brutality, but that’s really the question to ask when listening to Weight of the False Self. Like the title suggests, a veteran band like Hatebreed walks the line between stagnation and sticking to its guns. To circle back to the initial question, Hatebreed has yet to officially beat its horse to death, though the finite number of bones to break has become more noticeable. To sum it up as charitably as possible, the audience for this Hatebreed album is Hatebreed fans who want more Hatebreed music… and they probably pre-ordered it already.