Hawthorne Heights - Zero (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Hawthorne Heights

Zero (2013)

Red River Entertainment

Hawthorne Heights usually garner a lot of flak from music fans, but in between some of the generic and mundane stuff, they do manage the arbitrary single or three that ain't too shabby at all. I guess it's that nostalgia in me toward the days when Victory used them, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and Silverstein to much better musical effect. Zero isn't their best material, and it isn't that impressive on the whole, but it's not as bad as many would assume off the cuff. The Silence in Black and White was a guilty pleasure, so sue me, but this album, while falling short in the grand scheme of things, does manage to surprise at certain intervals. This record's a tale of two halves, to be concise.

Hawthorne Heights have probably devolved in writing. That's apparent here. The songs, their delivery and the narratives are a tad immature. "Memories Of Misery" features that drab, generic, drawn-out mold that made fans resentful and bitter for their shoddier work. They're not as boring as some folks would peg them, but they've never really found that emo-screamo essence for a long time. Albeit, value in kernels and nuggets; certainly not in chunks. But while the scope of Victory Records diminished, most of the bands waned and many wondered how the old guard roster would pan out, JT Woodruff and team are still around.

I struggle to find charisma and energy in Hawthorne Heights' recent records, and even downright disliked them. But Woodruff's actually sounding better on the mic. Given that an attempt at a Fall Out Boy meets Depeche Mode came off terribly in "Darkside", I was wondering how long the album would take to capitulate. Surprisingly, it didn't take long; it instead managed to pick up doses of steam on "Zero" and build from there. The band cut out the flashy shit and Matt Ridenour's bass lines add much needed structure. They remain steep in overly catchy anthems that are a tad ridiculous at times, but amid the lyrics and weak interludes, which they really could ill-afford, "Golden Parachutes" and "Put Me Back Together" justify just why they could be a guilty pleasure and a band that you could hate yourself for liking.

Cheesy? Yes. Does it work? The second half does. Pop-punk, but more in tune with the Spitalfield and Madcap elements of old times. Closing out with a tune, "Over and Out," that seems like a Jimmy Eat World / A Day To Remember mashup was quite a gamble, but it somewhat wors.. What's tough is that to get to the second half, you really have to drag yourself through some disappointing stuff earlier. If you can make it through, you'll find Zero isn't the disaster everyone thought it would be.