Sound — 7
Hatebreed, one of the pioneering bands in the metalcore genre, have been making fiercely aggressive slabs of hardcore-influenced metal (or metal-influenced hardcore, depending on how you look at it) since 1997, well before a lot of the bands that are lumped into the metalcore genre these days were even ideas. Their sound has hardly changed at all since their debut album, "Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire," even though the metalcore genre has evolved around them, but don't take that as an anachronism, this band's mix of hardcore punk and brutal metal still sounds fresh after all these years, even if the sonic assault might not be to everyone's tastes.
Sonically speaking, the album has a pretty basic formula: chunky, aggressive guitar riffs matched to loud bass and drums, with very aggressive shouted vocals from founding member Jamey Jasta. You're not going to encounter any clean guitars, weird explorations of sound effects, epic song structures, or intricately-arranged pieces here. Guitar solos are few and far between on the record (only in the first single, "A.D." and the tune "Slaughtered in Their Dreams") and clean vocals are used extremely sparingly. Only one song on the album exceeds the three minute mark ("Something's Off"), and the album as a whole clocks in at a tad over half an hour long. Despite the brevity of the album, the lack of variety in the tones and song structures does make the album a bit of a difficult listen, but long-time Hatebreed fans are no doubt used to this, and will find a lot to enjoy about the album.
Founding members Jasta and bassist Chris Beattie are joined by long-time drummer Matt Byrne, who holds up the rhythm section quite well, and even though his playing is usually simple, he does get a chance to unleash some different beats on songs like "Walking the Knife" with a brief bit of blast beat action. Guitarists Frank Novinec and Wayne Lozinak lock together most of the time, but on occasion, there are brief bits of melody in the lead guitar parts, and a couple of brief but fleet-fingered solos. The tones on this album are aggressive and extremely basic, kind of a meat-and-potatoes guitar sound. But this is not a bad thing at all, as it really gets the job done at translating that aggressiveness to the listener. The bass is often locked in directly with the bass and drums, but once in a while the guitar will give way for the bass to breathe, and Chris Beattie's tone is huge and full. And when he's doing simple bass flourishes like in the final song, "Serve Your Masters," he really comes through loud and clear.
The production on the album is very loud, almost searing, and without any real dynamic range to speak of, but it's befitting of such an aggressively heavy band. The mixing creates a wall-of-sound effect, but it's still easy to hear the individual instruments through the maelstrom. With such a simple, meat-and-potatoes arrangement, there's no need for this album to be mixed any quieter, and that makes the production style extremely effective. However, I do wish the album had a bit more sonic variety, as it can be a bit of a painful listen, and the monotonous playing and singing style does mean that even at only 33 and a half minutes long, the album does have a bit of a tendency to drag on in the second half. But if you're already a Hatebreed fan, you already know what to expect, and will likely find this to not be a problem at all.
Lyrics — 8
Jamey Jasta is one pissed-off citizen. He pulls absolutely zero punches with his lyrics on this album, many of which describe the issues of being an American in this day and age, with all the greed and corruption and opulence among the political elite. Though this album is not entirely political, with tracks like "Remember When" showing more of an almost anti-nostalgic bent to them, about living life in the moment instead of reminiscing, or "Seven Enemies," which is just a pissed-off anthem with lyrics such as "Today is not the fucking day/I sympathize with their pain/Their negative ways/Giving birth to endless cries and complaints." But there are quite a few lyrics that touch on politics as well, with "A.D." (which, as Jamey has mentioned in interviews, may or may not stand for "American Dream") decrying the mainstream media along with the greed and corruption that goes along with it ("Turn on the TV for the murder spree/Get distracted while they take your civil liberty/Thoughts and prayers again, is that what it'll take? /Which industries profit while lives are at stake/Now hear the media fools discuss the killer's mind/Starring at the screen to tell us what they find/Manifesto, dollar, worship get on your knees/So they can sell us a cure for the American disease"), and even touches on the current state of the electoral race with the song "Us Against Us" ("Slaves to the screen/fanatics and thieves/discerned by the powers that be/when there's no one left to trust/it's us against us").
Jamey's singing style is based pretty much entirely on monotonous hardcore shouts, though there are brief sections of clean-ish singing (not quite beyond a hardcore shout, but with actual melodic notes being sung), and even some straight-up clean vocals on "Serve Your Masters." In a fashion almost like Meshuggah, the vocals seem to be treated almost as another rhythmic instrument rather than a melodic one, or even as a brutal sound layer like in a lot of death metal. Jasta's almost violent bark locks in perfectly with the drums and guitar riffs.
Again, the only issue I really take with the vocal performances on the album are the lack of variety. While there are a few melodic vocal parts, they're used so incredibly sparingly that they do little to break the monotony of the album.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, I found this album quite impressive, and it's definitely going to be one of the most mosh-worthy albums of the year. Combining a really simple set of ingredients to make a very emotional, visceral album, Hatebreed have stuck to doing what they do best, and that's created a damn fine example of metallic hardcore with "The Concrete Confessional." Politically-charged lyrics give a sense of depth and purpose to the album, and turn this into almost a protest record of sorts.
If you're a fan of chunky, heavy guitar riffs, aggressive hardcore vocals, simple arrangements, and pissed-off lyrics, you're going to find a lot to like on this record. And I can't think of very many bands that do such angry music as potent as this. If anger had a soundtrack, this band would be the ones scoring it. But as angry as this album is at, well, pretty much everything, it's not without purpose. Even in the song "A.D.," the band encourages listeners to "rethink this dream that they call American" so that "it can mean something real again" one day.
Hatebreed proves yet again that simplicity can be a very effective musical device on this album, and if you're a Hatrebreed fan, you really cannot go wrong with this record. Definitely going to recommend checking it out.