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ARTIST NAME HERE - SONG TITLE HERE
PRESENTED BY JOSEPH KELLEY
Remember when today's middle-aged working stiffs were once young Generation X-types who were wearing ironic T-shirts reading "FREAK" or "LOSER," words that mirrored their grunge-centric ennui? Then there was one band who made that pervading nihilism even more stylish by rocking black shirts with the word "zero" in silver glitter. But while the z-word has the capacity to taint test scores, bank balances and attempts at self-actualization in ways no other common integer can, it does represent more positive ideals. Consider the terminology used by project managers to herald the beginning of a big project: Year Zero. What's the numerical equivalent used when someone uses the metaphor of "hitting the reset button" on their lives and/or careers? That's right: zero.
For the members of Hawthorne Heights, the word (or number) isn't the providence of losers, nor a bastion of stylish disconnection. Zero, the fifth album from the Dayton, Ohio, outfit, represents a positively incandescent future. Now aligning themselves with Red River Entertainment, Hawthorne Heights—singer/guitarist JT Woodruff, guitarists Micah Carli and Mark McMillion, bassist Matt Ridenour and drummer Eron Bucciarelli—are rising above their post-hardcore roots in ambitious measures. Overseen by producer Brian Virtue, Zero marks a wider breadth of the band's capacity to create compelling work, regardless of the social implications found in certain music subcultures.
While many of the participants in America's post-hardcore sweepstakes have toiled in the underground with a mere modicum of success (if any), Hawthorne Heights achieved much in their 12-year existence. Since their inception in 2001, the band made heads swivel with their brand of melodic post-hardcore heightened by the interplay between frontman Woodruff's "clean vocal" and the late rhythm guitarist Casey Calvert's screaming. Their 2004 debut, The Silence In Black And White was not only a benchmark for the band (the release was certified gold-status), but also for the attendant "screamo" aesthetic both critics and fans credit the group with bringing into the forefront. 2006's If Only You Were Lonely repeated gold-selling success for the band, further establishing them as a dynamic live act.
The backdrop of Zero takes place in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future where a totalitarian government (the Coalition Of Alternate Living Methods, aka CALM) systematically drugs the populace in order to keep them docile. The central protagonist awakes one morning to find his whole life completely decimated, as if he was dropped into the middle of a desolate vista of scorched earth and wasteland. The hero has to battle the government—as well as the constant barrage of memories that haunt him—in order to find answers. While the song-cycle format is an interesting departure for Hawthorne Heights, the songs are still vibrant, even when dissected from the greater concept. Tracks like "Memories Of Misery," "Darkside," "Golden Parachutes" and "Anywhere But Here," contain equal measures of pop sensibility, as well as lyrical heft. But there are also touching and unnerving moments at play: The acoustic melancholy of "Hollow Hearts Unite" is a mix of altruist sentiment and helplessness colliding. The title track sports Woodruff's wounded vocal and a guitar solo that wouldn't sound out of place on a David Gilmour album. "Lost In The Calm" is a deathbed spectator trying to cope, set to a rapid beat that mirrors the song's urgency. When you consider the current controversy surrounding the activities of corporations intersecting with government (stick "Monsanto" or "fracking" in your search engine of choice and see what happens) futures, Zero doesn't sound like contrived fiction. In his role as both recording artist and doting father, Bucciarelli genuinely worries about these constructs.
It's also a good thing that Hawthorne Heights are still out there. As one of the founding names in the foundation of post-hardcore/contemporary punk, the quintet are reinvigorated and ready to go where their new vision will take them, from the stage of this year's Warped Tour to the rest of the world. It might sound like a self-deprecating quip, but the truth has a much greater resonance: The sum total of Hawthorne Heights' parts equals Zero. And it's far more valuable than mindless slacker nostalgia.
BROUGHT TO YOU IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE END, NYC.
Filmed & Edited by Chris O'Konski
Mixed by The End
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