Sound — 6
The singers skills are good and controlled, knowing the fact the with records like "The Silence in Black and White" & "If Only You Were Lonely" it was obviously clear that for those records, the singer, J.T. Woodruff, used something to make his voice sound in tune. But, in this EP his voice sounds as natural and raw as it has ever sounded before. I don't know what instruments the band used in this record, but, it is clear that they are still using "classic" Hawthorne Heights gear to produce the sound that the fans are familiar with. Even though the guitars are not as neatly organized and harmonized as in the past records since "Hate" EP it still has their familiar tone. The quality of the sound overall in this record is very good, keep in mind that this is their second record self-produced, self-arranged, and self-released under their own record label Cardboard Empire. The sound is crisp, raw, a bit watered down as the record runs along, but it sticks and holds like cheap, muddy glue.
Lyrics — 3
For vocalist/songwriter J.T. Woodruff, it is clear that the message he is trying to torch in this record is: "Even though the world is sh-t, there is always hope, you know that will always be there to lift you." It is very clear that this is his point in the record with songs like "Hope": "Hope/It never gets me down/It never burns me out/ It always guides me/Hope," the song "Vandemonium": "The best times I have ever had/ Are riding with my friends in this van." Stating the simple beauty of just having your loved ones as company. Even though the message is clear, it still does not make me believe the concept of this record is "Hope." This is maybe because, J.T. as a lyricist is not very dynamic or emotionally believable. For example, at the start of "There Was a Kid (Part II)," the song which opens this album, goes: "There was a kid who was raised by television/Had an alcoholic father who died from bad decisions." Showing us a simple rhyme and setting but with no dimension in it. I am aware that this is an unmissable reference to J.T.'s father who was an alcoholic. Even though, it connects massively with the sing and his truth, for the listeners, its very blunt and does not really allow us to capture the kind of emotion the singer is trying to give us. The songwriting skills are there, but it seems more relevant to the singer than to the listeners.
Overall Impression — 6
It is no "unspeakable truth" that of course, Hawthorne Heights have released albums in the past with more stainless sound quality, more polished guitars, cleaner vocal deliveries, and less straight forward lyrics. But, there is one thing that this effort has that the others don't, and that is: soul, rawness, truth, and passion. This sounds human, this record sounds like real life frustration. It is not "This Is Who We Are" or "Rescue me from everything" or "Your an angel, I'm a devil." This is real humans going through the same bullsh-t that we go through, this is the sound that this album brings. The songs that stand out in my opinion are, "Stranded," for it's gloomy blanket of guitars and mood, "New Winter," for it's sing along chorus, giving you a taste of this real thing called "Hope," and "Running in Place (Niki A.M.)" for the pop overtone of the song. Apart from the lyrics, which is the only flaw about this record, in my opinion, this album is real rawness from the damp and sweaty garage to the crammed and sh-t-smelling touring van. If it was stolen or lost, I wouldn't give a sh-t at first, but, in all honesty, I would have to buy it sometime soon, because personally, this album has befriended me during some confusing times in my life.