American hardcore has been all but dead the past couple years. Not for a lack of practitioners but a lack of something to say that hasn't been said already or worse, a lack of a new attack plan, the sustenance of hardcore literally sits on the shoulders of Jamey Jasta and HATEBREED. By instinct, they appear to sense this responsibility and they take up their own cause with their fiercest effort since 2003's "The Rise of Brutality". Indeed, "The Divinity of Purpose", HATEBREED's first studio album in four years and their debut for Razor & Tie, is not merely a scorching album by a veteran unit; it's full-on reclamation of a wilted scene.
Modern hardcore has become its own beast separate from the Eighties principals such as MINOR THREAT, BAD BRAINS and RITES OF SPRING. EARTH CRISIS, TERROR and HATEBREED assumed the ethics of their elders and morphed them into memorandums of unity and self-empowerment. Thousands of young acolytes over the past decade-plus have steeped the hardcore scene with shoulder-to-shoulder moshing, boot stamping and militant mandates of dedication or dispatch. In many ways, this posse-minded bastardization of straight edge lost its impact once many of the teenagers buying into the precept grew up and out of hardcore.
On "The Divinity of Purpose", Jamey Jasta sounds like he's grown not older, but savvier. He huffs his lyrics with perfect synchronicity to HATEBREED's alternating tempos and these songs dive straight back to the basics. To quote Jasta himself, this album is "all pit, no shit." He backs up that claim with conviction and while it appears "The Divinity of Purpose" is at first going to ring like any other hardcore album set on turbo, HATEBREED has the smarts to change things up. Better, they elaborate upon their rhythm lines when called for and they might be the only hardcore or metalcore band out there with the dignity to modify their chugging breakdowns so they serve the songs instead of slashing momentum like relentless, temperamental interruptions. When this album presses its pedal to the metal, it counts for something. When it pokes and tags along, it's still heavier than the flu and Jasta's decipherable woofing becomes infectious by attrition.
As ever, "The Divinity of Purpose" orates a standing up for one's self ethos, but it's not the same old bag. Jamey Jasta sounds like an old pal back from the trenches and he has plenty to convey with a clap on your shoulder and an invitation to bark into the mike with him on "Put it to the Torch", "Own Your World", "Honor Never Dies", "The Language", "Bitter Truth", "Nothing Scars Me" and "Before the Fight Ends You".
The difference between "The Divinity of Purpose" and the scores of hardcore heavies before it is a rabid, heartfelt allegiance to personal integrity versus loyalty to an ascribed, collective mind frame. This is hardcore with all of its balls pushing at full strain through denim. It's about crushing riffs, metrical beat patterns, spit across the microphone and a sage wisdom to shove it all forward at a fever pitch. The one time a breakdown actually halts the main progress on "Boundless (Time to Murder It)", it comes as a quick-cutting finale. HATEBREED has studied all that has nearly raised a funeral upon their scene and they deliver an intense, pissed-off rebound.
When Jamey Jasta calls out "sometimes standing for what you believe means standing alone" and by association calling out posers on "Honor Never Dies", it feels honest. The choruses subsequently ring like forthright punk hymns. When he coaxes his listeners with blaring empathy on "Own Your World" by querying them with "Who's got more heart than you?" expect to scream back at him on the gang response with fists up, "No one!!!"
Too many times hardcore bands have challenged their audience by demanding they make a stand in de facto obligation towards something that's essentially immaterial. Pride and veracity are the implied tangibles and you either have it or you preach it before hitting the bong at the after-party. Not to crap on any particular band playing contemporary hardcore, but the brutal concentration of HATEBREED's "The Language" speaks the walk instead of the talk. That sells the message without selling out.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.