Hawthorne Heights – Skeletons
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Record Label: Wind-Up
Sometime 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.
Heard it on Youtube and was dissapointed. J.T. said they were going back to hardcore, well I was shocked at the lack of screams. TSIBAW and IOYWL were their best two albums. Sucks to see them go in a poppy direction.
Like every HH release, i tried a few songs because there's always a review like this somewhere that makes me think they've finally changed. I heard nothing particularly exciting, they lyrics are still juvenile and plain embarrassing in some parts. I guess I'll just never like this band.