In 1997, Hatebreed set the hardcore world on fire with their debut record, Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. Lots of other bands were fast, and aggressive, and heavy, but Hatebreed fine-tuned the formula into its most refined state and created – or at least perfected – the genre of “beatdown” hardcore.
Hatebreed said fuck you to the entire world, unrestrained by insular clique or ideology, and their crushing, brutal mosh parts, which punctuated every single song, gave kids plenty of opportunity to lash out – literally – at everyone around them.
I bought Satisfaction when Victory Records released it in November of that year. And I remember thinking that I had never heard a hardcore band angrier or more confrontational than them. Other bands were heavy, sure, and other bands had similarly aggressive lyrics and grooves. But Hatebreed was meaner than anybody, and spoke to everyone who ever felt frustrated by the false promises of our broken society.
Twenty years have now gone by. To celebrate this milestone (and their 2002 follow-up, Perseverance), Hatebreed took to the road along with grindcore legends Dying Fetus, experimental groove metal band Code Orange, and stoner doom outfit Twitching Tongues.
The lineup of the tour is just one indicator that Hatebreed has come a long way from gyms and small venues in the Connecticut hardcore scene of the mid-90s. They don’t get in fist fights with small crowds anymore. They’re a highly polished team of metal professionals who now have seven original albums, dozens of national tours, and a few sold-out stadiums under their belts. Singer Jamey Jasta has flirted with household name recognition, hosting Headbangers Ball for three years and even appearing in normal people venues like the Dan Patrick Show (with the late, great Oderus Urungus).
And the big crowds that attend their shows these days are far different from those that followed them around in 1996, when I last saw them (at Sparks on Main Street). Back then it was big guys wearing crew logo windbreakers and sporting line beards. Now, it’s the diverse cross section of most metal shows – young and old, male and female, long-haired and short-haired, working class and professional. Such was the case on December 1st when they visited Diamond Pub and Brewery on Barret Ave.
For this celebration tour, Hatebreed vowed to play mostly songs from their first two records, and they held true to their word. From classics like “Empty Promises” and “Afflicted Past” from Satisfaction, to “Proven” and the title track from Perseverance, they took everyone back in time.
But like I said before, this was not the same Hatebreed. Back in the day they were mean and confrontational. Today, Jamey Jasta and crew are crowd-pleasing showmen, spending more time smiling and encouraging the crowd than trying to lash out at the world. Jasta, a very young-looking 40 year-old, grinned through almost the whole set, asking everyone repeatedly if they were having fun.
To be honest, old songs like “Burial for the Living” (No one can redeem themselves / No one can be saved) and “Driven by Suffering” (Every second breathes life / Into a reason for dying) just don’t hit quite as hard when the singer interjects uplifting affirmations between them. Jamey Jasta is easily one of the best frontmen in all of hardcore history, but that sharp edge he once projected is now long gone. He’s a rock star now (but not in a bad way).
This is not your father’s Hatebreed. This is a tight, well-tuned crew of professional entertainers, who know what their fans want. And what their fans in Louisville really seemed to want was a taste of Hatebreed’s present, not its past. At one point during the show they took a break from their old material to play a song from their latest record, The Concrete Confessional. The crowd went much crazier for “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” than old bangers like “Worlds Apart” and “Not One Truth.”
Such is how things go. The past must give way to the present and Hatebreed is still very much a part of the present. This wasn’t a reunion tour, old has-beens shamelessly cashing in on past glory and the nostalgia of greybeards like me. This was a band of today playing ode to their roots, two great records that somehow still sound fresh, even though the scenes from which they came are no longer where Hatebreed spends much of their time.
Hats off to a band that has not forgotten where they came from. They could be touring on new material and drawing the same if not bigger crowds, but they took time to reach back and let a few of us relive our glory days of the past, even though Hatebreed’s glory days are still very much ongoing.