Dead Hearts - Bitter Verses (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead Hearts

Bitter Verses (2006)


Bitter Verses should do nothing if not serve as a wake-up call. A wake-up call to anyone who likes hardcore, but has somehow or other been sleeping on Dead Hearts. One of the more criminally underrated bands in any genre, Buffalo's finest (since Snapcase) have made some tweaks to their melodic hardcore sound, and the result is a fine one.

For this go-round, Dead Hearts have honed their sound, strengthened their songwriting, and become much less reliant on a specific kind of song structure. Singer Derek Dole sounds better than ever, something that's immediately noticeable as the shouts of "These are the restless nights! These are the sleepless nights!" follow the rhythmic drum patterns that lead "Dusk" from the beginning. The powerful gang vocals are well accented by some more intricate guitar work that the band might not have thought to use on previous efforts. It's clear they've let the style of Modern Life Is War influence their change in direction, but not to the point of copy. It's still Dead Hearts, and it's still as energetic and passionate as ever.

Following the captivating gang vocals that ended "Dusk," "Fall" treads in some different waters. A much harder, and much angrier effort than had been hinted at with the previous track, "Fall" lets the vocals carry the majority of the weight. The melodic undercurrents do well to propel the song along its course, but it's Dole that really ties everything together.

The most noticeable improvement in the album, though I'd be a liar to say much was wrong with their previous records, is the all out intensity. As I touched on a bit earlier, it seems every aspect of their songwriting process was taken up a few notches for the recording of this album. The drums hit harder, the riffs hit harder, the vocals hit harder, all adding up to not only a fuller sound, but one that surpasses the standard melodic hardcore the band began with. What's more, is that even with some fleshed out song times, like the four-minute "Hope," every moment grips you by the throat, not giving so much as a chance to catch your breath. There's variation where there wasn't before, and songs like this seem to exemplify that.

"Hollow" starts off with some back-and-forth gang vocals, before a quick guitar bridge lets Dole lash out and deliver his vocals in a manner that only now does he seem to be capable of. More comfortable than ever, the guitarists change up the chord progressions quite frequently, and the varying tempos are still able to keep up that intensity and keep up that rage that fuels each and every one of the 15 songs.

To call it a re-invention teeters on the overdramatic, but this is certainly a band who's tinkered with their formula to create something that fans of the band might not have expected a year or two ago. I can only imagine that this newfound comfort and intensity will allow the band to progress, and get even better with time. In the meantime, these are their restless nights, these are their sleepless nights.