“Fight fire with fire, you’ll see that everyone’s burning,” vocalist Jamey Jasta shouts at the end of the bridge of ‘A.D.,’ the opening track to Connecticut hardcore and metal heavyweights Hatebreed’s eighth studio album, The Concrete Confessional.
I know I recently spent longer on metalcore than any normal human would ever care to think about, but Hatebreed is an interesting case. They are sort of the literal definition of metallic hardcore, in the sense that they are primarily a hardcore band with undeniable metal influence. Since their stellar debut album Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire in 1997, Hatebreed has proven to be an absolute force in the world of hardcore and metal, bringing together fans from both sides of the heavy music spectrum. On The Concrete Confessional, their first for Nuclear Blast Records, the band does an excellent job of channeling each style an even amount on almost every song. The aforementioned ‘A.D.’ has a very apparent thrash influence in its verses, as well as ‘Us Against Us,’ which has some true old school metal guitar work throughout it. Songs like ‘Looking Down The Barrel Of Today’ and ‘Seven Enemies’ lean more towards the hardcore angle, with chant-inducing choruses and heavy, grooving guitar riffs. Songs like these really make this album standout among some of Hatebreed’s more recent output, showcasing that pure aggression and tight songwriting has never left their system, a refreshing change of pace from 2013’s The Divinity Of Purpose and the less-than-thrilling covers album For The Lions in 2009.
Some of the most vicious moments this album has to offer are on the songs ‘Something’s Off’ and ‘Slaughtered In Their Dreams.’ The prior is the album’s longest cut, and pulls styles from the groove metal and metallic hardcore handbooks evenly, with an explosive chorus that is impossible to keep your head still to. It’s also a sound that is fairly new to the Hatebreed catalogue, and much more fleshed out than their usual hardcore onslaught. ‘Slaughtered…’ is a straightforward banger with one of the most intense refrains on the entire LP; “How can they laugh? How can they breathe? How do they sleep when there are children slaughtered in their dreams?” Jasta and company really make an effort to get their point across on these two tracks, and appearing so close to each other in the tracklisting gives the album’s middle portion a one-two punch of non-stop aggression.
Luckily, the intensity of The Concrete Confessional doesn’t stop there. ‘The Apex Within’ and ‘Walking The Knife’ are perfect soundtracks to chaos and destruction, dealing with themes of animal violence of the hunt and the hunted, and towing the line between life and death, respectively. The way Jasta screams “Death is on one side, the other is life, neither seems right when you’re walking in ice” on the latter track is one of his most gnashing vocal performances on the album, and really makes him sound as carnal and evil as I want to hear on a Hatebreed album.
Closing track ‘Serve Your Masters’ includes some lower-end growl-singing on its chorus, similar to that of ‘From Grace We’ve Fallen’ that appears earlier on the album, but I think that this track utilizes it better and in a bit more interesting and effective way. When Jasta is singing, he channels notable metal icons like Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar, the second of which should be no surprise given his friendship and collaboration with Jasta on the Kingdom Of Sorrow project. It ties up the album very nicely and ends on a single downbeat to ensure that the band gets the last word.
Overall, The Concrete Confessional is, in a lot of ways, a perfect Hatebreed album. The balance between metal and hardcore is done with such grace and meticulousness that it seems crazy that the band has been going strong for over 20 years. Really the only gripe I have about this record is a couple of songs being not as standout as some of the others, but at about 33 and a half minutes, the album does not overstay its welcome like some of the band’s mid-period releases, and ensures replay value multiple times. I was fortunate enough to finally catch the band live this weekend, the day after the album’s release, and they were an incredible act to watch perform with easily an entry in the top five craziest pits I’ve ever experienced. If you ever think Hatebreed is slowing down, they make sure to let it be known that they have no interest in stopping, and a burning desire to keep things as loud and as in-your-face as they’ve always been.
Written by L. Mounts