Today, we are continuing our Twenty Years Later series. Helmed by Staffer Michael Musilli, the series will look back at hardcore and harcore-ish records at their 20 year mark. Not only will the pieces include analysis of a record's importance, but Musilli also contacted a slew of hardcore musicians in order to get their perspective on landmark records. Today, Musilli takes an in-depth look at Hatebreed's Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. Check it out below.
Hatebreed’s Satisfaction is the Death of Desire Remains Worlds Apart
Throughout its storied history, hardcore has always had a few scattered bands that managed to transcend the otherwise restrictive ceiling of underground popularity. In their different ways we’ve seen the likes of Bad Religion and Circle Jerks and Quicksand and Sick Of It All rise into the national rock stratosphere. But those bands, and the others like them, all had an edge that was smoothed by musical melody or catchy hooks or even slick appearances. And without those dynamics, most other bands knew they’d be relegated to a reaching a lesser summit of popularity. For many years, this relegation seemed especially true for heavier bands in the hardcore underground. I mean, drop-D tuning almost guaranteed a restricted level of success. And then came Hatebreed’s Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. The band’s first full-length on Victory Records, released in late 1997, stormed onto the national stage with a success and impact few thought to predict.
To be clear, Hatebreed was a very successful band prior to the release of Satisfaction… But it was a different definition of success. They toured the world. They had ferociously loyal fans everywhere. They had blistering live shows. But all of that success was rooted distinctly in the hardcore underground. That success was not to be denied or downplayed at all. It was, after all, the result of a diligent DIY work ethic on the part of Jamey Jasta. He steered Hatebreed towards accomplishment from the day he got the band off the ground. Be it his obsessive touring regiment for the band, self-releasing their music on his own Stillborn Records, or maintaining friendships across the world with those who could help his band, Jasta’s vision was the jumping off point for this underground triumph.
But with Satisfaction is the Death of Desire came the inclusion of Victory Records. And in 1997, Victory Records ruled the underground. They were the end-game of independent record labels, at least in the hardcore realm. They had everyone from Warzone and Earth Crisis to Refused and Grey Area and even Electric Frankenstein locked into record contracts. And they were, at that time anyway, legendary for their unmatched levels of promotion. Satisfaction is the Death of Desire was released dead smack on top of the crest of Victory’s rising wave of underground dominance. Between the credibility shouldered through years of hard work by Jasta and company and Victory’s powerhousing, the record was bound for success.
Terror’s Scott Vogel was one of those people who witnessed the real-time ascension of Hatebreed off Satisfaction… His old band, Buried Alive, was on tour with Hatebreed in the months leading up to the recording of the LP, and he remembered, “I was on tour with them watching them get tighter and more brutal every night. You could feel that they were on the brink of something very special. They entered Trax East Studio in New Jersey and created a timeless unrelenting beast that changed the face of hardcore.” So it seemed that there was a convergence of sorts happening around Hatebreed in 1997. Internally, they were sharpening their own knives in preparation for the coming storm. Externally, the hardcore underground at large was ripe and ready to rally around the next transcendent record, and Satisfaction is the Death of Desire would satiate just that readiness.
The opening blasts to the record’s first song, “Empty Promises,” were machine-gun flares of hardcore fury. Plain and simple. Within thirty seconds the listener was thrown into a drop-d breakdown never before recorded at such a polished level. A minute and a half later, the song is over, the adrenaline is pumping, and the record is off the tarmac. Interestingly, many of the songs on the record adopt a similar pattern. Open at a furious pace, sledgehammer the listener with a steroidal breakdown, and finish up in about two minutes. Maybe a sing-along in there. Maybe not. But always the adrenal rage. Always.
And then there was the record’s third track, “Before Dishonor.” Looking back, this track was destined to be the standout on the record and, more significantly, the battle call for a new generation of hardcore listeners. From the opening sample straight into the now-infamous opening riff, “Before Dishonor” was to become a legendary song. Lyrically, it covered typical hardcore fare: individuality, love of friends, disapproval of oppressive culture. But Jasta delivered his content with aplomb and ferocity that brought the song well above the typical. I mean, how many sacred heart tattoos wrapped in a “Before Dishonor” banner popped up in the few years after the record’s release? Just check Google.
For Brian Audley of Incendiary, the popularity of Satisfaction… was an eye-opening experience for him. He recalls, “As one of maybe three kids in my school that was aware of hardcore in a pre-internet 1997, I remember thinking it was strange to see several new people from my school at [Hatebreed] shows. Seeing them draw outsiders into hardcore from the power of that record was my first indication that Hatebreed’s future was going to be special.” That sentiment was one that many shared as Hatebreed’s explosive rise happened in real-time. Remember, this was a band that, especially for hardcore kids like Brian, people saw at VFW halls and DIY venues. Suddenly, they were playing concert halls and small arenas. And they were doing so on a distinctly hardcore record.
Satisfaction is the Death of Desire was, in the end, to be a release of ignition. It sparked yet another new level of popularity for the hardcore genre. For better or worse, and that decision is your entirely, hardcore bands were thrust even more closely into the mainstream. Of their next seven full-lengths, Hatebreed would release records on Universal, Roadrunner, and Nuclear Blast. All from the strength of Satisfaction…, which remains the best-selling debut record for any Victory Records artists. A strong feat given their meaty roster. It was at once a surprise and recognition of Hatebreed’s hard work. You’d be hard-pressed to disagree with Incendiary’s Audley that “watching a record you grew up with become a classic in real-time is rare. But I can’t think of a more deserving example than Satisfaction…”
Satisfaction… opened doors and created opportunities for all sorts of bands. “Satisfaction… broke down many barriers and took hardcore to the masses in the best way possible,” says Vogel. And maybe that’s as big a part of the record’s legacy as its timelessly brutal sonic assault.