It might be hard to comprehend at this point, but there are still some people out there who haven't succumbed to the wonder of HATEBREED yet. Quite how Jamey Jasta and his comrades could do more to ingratiate themselves with fans of heavy music is anyone's guess. Far beyond diehard, the band have been omnipresent in both hardcore and metal circles for over two decades, and their recorded output has been every bit as consistent as their deservedly legendary live shows. And yes, we know exactly what we're going to get from a new HATEBREED album in 2020, and, unless you've gone completely mad over the last 12 months (which wouldn't be unreasonable, in fairness to you), it's hard to think of anything more welcome as we approach a dark and dismal winter. One of the few bands to consistently espouse an ethos of positive thinking and self-empowerment without seeming patronizing or vacuous, HATEBREED have always been an invigorating tonic. Just when we most need it, "Weight of The False Self" is a particularly potent dose of the stuff.
For those hoping for a mid-career detour into jazzy psychedelia, the eighth HATEBREED album is going to be a massive disappointment. For everyone else, this is precisely the kind of short, sharp slap around the head that we all need. Sounding in supremely tight and destructive form, the band's current lineup have never sounded better, and that imperious confidence is reflected in the songwriting too. Of course, there's no point in explaining what the new HATEBREED songs sound like, because they sound like HATEBREED. In truth, they've always been more versatile and prone to experimenting than their one-track reputation might suggest, but it's the sheer, streamlined majesty of the band's sound that ensures that these 12 freshly minted anthems hang together like one gloriously abrasive slab of riff-powered motivational therapy.
That said, there are still the expected made-for-the-live-show anthems, not least the towering title track and the crushing "This I Earned", both of which echo the bellow-along sharpness of old classics like "I Will Be Heard" and "In Ashes They Shall Reap". Elsewhere, "Dig Your Way Out" is simply the finest and most furious punk rock song HATEBREED have ever written; part throwback to the original days of crossover thrash, part post-millennial riff throwdown, it sounds like the work of snotty teenagers, rather than respected veterans.
Another example of a trusted formula being tinkered with, "Let Them Rot" sees the band weave deathly discord into a bloody tapestry of riffs, with Jasta sounding genuinely incensed as he delivers another vital, chest-out sermon. Finally, for a shower of extra metal points, both "Wings of The Vulture" and "Invoking Dominance" conjure up the dark side of thrash with pitiless, stripped-down intensity, that irresistible HATEBREED chug retooled as a weapon of spiritual war. The album's indecently exciting and seems to whip by in considerably fewer than its supposed 35 minutes. It hardly needs adding that every last one of these songs will fit seamlessly into the band's notoriously unrelenting live sets when normal circle-pit service is eventually resumed.
A few Jasta-phobic oddballs aside, just about everyone loves HATEBREED. "Weight of The False Self" will remind you why. This is their strongest album in over a decade and the perfect antidote to looming grey skies. Lift yourself up. Play it loud. Smash your furniture.