Review : Hawthorne Heights - Skeletons
AbsolutepunkSometime in 2004, after their debut album The Silence in Black and White starting selling thousands and thousands of copies, Hawthorne Heights became the band to hate. But for as many haters the band gained, they had just as many supporters and fans, as their second album, If Only You Were Lonely, debut at number three on the Billboard in 2006. Nothing could stop the Ohio quintet… except for an embarrassing publicity stunt conducted by their former label Victory, the long bitter lawsuit against the aforementioned label, and the tragic passing of guitarist Casey Calvert. The momentum came to a screeching halt, and Hawthorne Heights had to regroup.
The band decided not to replace Calvert, as he’ll always be an integral part to the band. They returned in the summer of 2008 with Fragile Future, their final release with Victory. The album showcased the band in a more somber state. Even though it was a solid album, some fans were disappointed. This time around though, Hawthorne Heights pull no punches, as they just want to rock and roll.
Skeletons is the band’s major label debut, and they most certainly brought out the big guns for Wind-Up. Big guitars, big hooks, and JT Woodruff’s best vocal performance yet. It’s evident in opening track “Bring You Back.” Guitar riffs pierce through as Woodruff’s voice bellows, “It was the middle of the night/when I heard you took your life.” From the very first note and with every following note sung and chord played, it is apparent that Calvert will always be on the band’s mind and he still inspires their music (I do anything/if it would bring you back/I’d go anywhere/if you’d show me the map”). The song also features one of the many killer choruses on Skeletons. Good luck getting “Nervous Breakdown” out of your membrane, as it’s one of the catchiest songs of the summer. The electric boogie of “Drive” is captivating, as the powerful chorus moves you along, giving the impression that this could be a huge single.
But this album is more than just hooks. There is the return of the aggressive sing/scream combo from the first two albums. Don’t fret; Calvert’s position hasn’t been replaced. Instead the band members take turns yelling (mostly done by guitarist Micah Carli), as well as getting some help from their closest friends (such as Emery). The foot-stomping beat of “End of the Underground” uses this technique, while Woodruff has never sounded more passionate than he does on the heavy-hitting “Unforgiveable.” “Abandoned Driveways” stands out as drummer Eron Bucciarelli paces the high-octane melody, which Woodruff absolutely owns.
Hawthorne Heights also showcase how much they’ve grown in their songwriting. First, Woodruff’s vocals have a nice variety, ranging from his sweet croon all the way to low growl. Present is more baritone and bravado as well. The musicianship has also been spiced up. While you still have fist-pumping rockers like “Broken Man” and the AFI-tinged “Here I Am,” but Hawthorne Heights switch things up like never before. The mood of “Gravestones” is straight out of a western (the slide guitar is a nice touch), and the gentle acoustic nature of “Picket Fences” is poignant. But the band saves their best for closer “Boy.” Woodruff’s voice soars, and “Boy” is the most theatrical piece in Hawthorne Heights’ discography.
This is a band that has been through hell and back. Skeletons is a reflection of that and is the best album of the band’s career. This is not same band that once screamed, “cut my wrists and black my eyes.” If anything, the band has finally shed that stigma with this record. This isn’t an album for hipsters and elitists. Rather this is an album for those who have experienced pain and joy. This is an album for those who use music to channel their inner emotions, something to rock out with and yell along to. Sure, Woodruff’s lyrics aren’t complex, but they are lyrics that make you feel something. There aren’t many bands out there that are as genuine and forthcoming like this. Vulnerable, emotional, and intense, Skeletons is Hawthorne Heights baring everything right down to their bones....full text
ollowing the 2007 death of Hawthorne Heights guitarist/ vocalist Casey Calvert, the post-hardcore act took a more mainstream direction, applying poppier melodies and scream-free vocals to its 2008 album, "Fragile Future." But after a lengthy legal battle with Victory Records and subsequently signing to Wind-up, the band returns to its harder roots on its latest album, "Skeletons." Throughout the set, lead guitarist Micah Carli lends death growls to support the emotional lyrics of vocalist JT Woodruff. Over heavily distorted guitars on the track "End of the Underground," Carli's roar supplements Woodruff's plea of "Please know that you're not alone." But the mood settles with "Gravestones," where screams are replaced with the heavy strumming of an acoustic guitar. And opening cut "Bring You Back" utilizes a familiar touch of pop punk with interwoven vocal melodies. Hawthorne Heights' rediscovery of its heavier roots may be what longtime fans have been yearning for, and also what the band needs to recover from past personal struggles. --Erin Clendaniel...full text
AllmusicAfter dealing with the death of Casey Calvert and a series of legal battles with their former label, Victory Records, it was clear from the sound on Fragile Future that Hawthorne Heights had emerged from their trials (both literal and figurative) a more mature band. After making the conscious decision not to replace Calvert, instead having guitarist Micah Carli take over as the resident screamer, the band delivered their most refined album to date with Skeletons. At a glance, it might feel like this is their tamest effort, and in some ways it is. The music doesn’t have the intensity of their earlier work, lacking the raw power of their three-guitar assault, and the unclean vocals are almost nonexistent. That said, their songwriting feels tighter and more deliberate. Rather than trying to force themselves back into their older sound, the band is working with what they have without trying to fill the gap left by Carli. While the music may seem more scaled back, the lyrics feel rawer and more emotional, even without the use of the screaming vocal dynamic. Themes of loss and grief are at the forefront here, with the band still clearly coping with the death of a dear friend, as well as the unfortunate loss of J.T. Woodruff’s mother (who was given a touching dedication in the liner notes). “Bring You Back” and “Gravestones” are heartfelt coping anthems, showing the band at their most emotional without any traces of angst. Longtime fans of Hawthorne Heights will be able to appreciate the vulnerability here as they witness the band at their most exposed, seeing through to their titular skeletons....full text
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