As an individual who listens to music on nearly a constant basis, one of my greatest pleasures lies in hearing a band I had lost interest in make good music again. It doesn’t have to be a perfect comeback or an exact return to form, but witnessing the improvement of a band that’s disappointed me in the past is always exciting. For a while back around 2004, Hawthorne Heights were huge and adored by many only to be dismissed by most of the world a few years later. The tragic loss of one of their essential band members following the release of their sophomore album didn’t exactly help their situation, but despite their best efforts they’ve remained almost invisible to their audience the last few years. So now, with Zero they are making yet another attempt to regain the world’s attention and while it’s not without some expected flaws, it’s the most promising album they’ve crafted in years.
Upon hearing the band’s Hate EP back in 2011, I admit I regained some interest in the band. They were now on their own label and although the songs weren’t necessarily fantastic, they seemed more genuine than before and contained the screamed vocals that seemed ever too absent on Fragile Future and Skeletons. So, I had some hopes for their next full length album, and while Zero is a good album, it’s not exactly what I was expecting following their two most recent EP’S. That‘s not to say there aren‘t some harsh vocals this time around, but they’re used much more sparingly, and surprisingly it works quite well. ‘Hopeless Hearts Unite’ is one of the most beautiful songs they’ve ever written, while ‘Taken By The Dark’ turns heads with some of the most intimidating and well-timed screams I’ve heard in the band’s career.
Zero may not be enough to change your mind about Hawthorne Heights if you never cared for them before, but for anybody who’s ever enjoyed the band it’s a statement that they‘ve still got a few tricks up their sleeve. Taking command of the microphone yet again is JT Woodruff who’s vocals can be very hit or miss with certain listeners. And although his nasally voice may be an acquired taste, it’s glowing with more confidence than it’s had in quite some time on Zero. The upbeat ‘Spark’ displays his ability to carry an entire song without relying on guest vocals or even screams. The lyrics are simple, but encouraging and fit perfectly between the punchy guitars, a huge sing-along chorus and an unexpectedly solid performance by Woodruff. It stands tall and proud as one of the most passionate songs on the album. Aforementioned ’Hollow Hearts Unite’ is also a winner and is nothing short of beautiful as Woodruff spills emotion from his every pore over some lightly picked guitars and somber violins.
Despite making several improvements on Zero some songs don’t carry their weight while others are instantly catchy but become stagnant with repeated listens. Lead single ‘Golden Parachutes’ is a great example of this as it has a giant chorus and is quite enjoyable at first but it doesn’t hold up well in the long run. ‘Darkside’ isn’t much different, except unlike the single it actually comes across as lazy both musically and lyrically. However, this time around the majority of the album manages to deliver and the weaker tracks don’t hinder the overall experience all that much.
It’s safe to say it’s been quite the rocky journey for Hawthorne Heights, but with Zero they prove there may be a good ending in store for them after all. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s one of the most solid albums they’ve released in a really long time. Unfortunately, it will likely be dismissed by many fans and critics alike, but at least there’s a spark to this one that keeps it from being just another average release in a forgotten band’s catalogue. In fact, it’s just good enough to jolt the band back to life and possibly snag up a few new fans in the process.
1. Skeletons Remain (Transmission 1)
2. Memories of Misery
6. Anywhere But Here
7. Hollow Hearts Unite
8. Coalition Of Alternate Living Methods (Broadcast)
9. Golden Parachutes
10. Put Me Back Together
12. Ghost Town
13. Lost In The Calm
14. Taken By The Dark
15. Over And Out (Transmission 2)