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Hawthorne Heights
HOPE EP
Cardboard Empire
www.hawthorneheights.com


I've always had a soft spot for Hawthorne Heights. In 2006, while on some downtime at a conference in Florida and desperate for something non-Disney to do I discovered Hawthorne Heights and Silverstein were playing the House of Blues. I was unfamiliar with both bands but a quick check of their MySpace pages (remember MySpace?) revealed at least a passing relation to the hardcore that I've always held so dear. Plus, at $12, the show was a bargain, right? A $25 cab ride (each way) later and I walked away from one of the standout show nights of my 25+ years of show-going.

Five years later (more than a lifetime for many bands) I find myself with a digital download of HOPE, the second in a trilogy of EPs that the band are self-releasing on their own Cardboard Empire imprint. The band is none the worse for wear after choosing to forge its own path and taking the DIY route-recording and releasing the EPs entirely on their own.

By and large, the HOPE's 8 tracks find Hawthorne Heights in classic form - using buzz-saw guitars and screamo backing vocals to fray the edges of their pop-punk sensibilities. Most importantly, HOPE finds the band taking a step to the left, back towards an edgier sound and away from the poppier hooks of some of their more recent releases. Their sound still resembles the roadkill that would result from a four-car pile-up between Blink 182, SUM 41, Refused, and At The Drive-In.

HOPE heats up with each track and ends with one of the strongest closing triptychs of songs of recent memory. Title track "Hope", "Vandemonium", and "Chemicals" are the standout tracks and find the band at its edgiest. Gang-vocal choruses and backing screams abound, highlighting the very best that Hawthorne Heights have to offer. Skip the self-indulgent, unnecessarily earnest opener, "There Was A Kid (Part 2)," in favor of these deeper cuts.

-George Dow

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Mike Doughty



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