April 23, 2018 Hawthorne Heights – Bad Frequencies (Album Review)
It has been five long years since we last heard from Hawthorne Heights, but now they are back with Bad Frequencies, which arrives on Friday, April 27, 2018, thanks to Pure Noise Records.
In 2004, Hawthorne Heights exploded onto the scene with their Emo debut, The Silence in Black and White, and their popularity only grew thanks to singles like “Ohio Is For Lovers” and “Niki FM.” The Dayton, Ohio band would go on to release four more albums over the next nine years, ranging from 2006’s If Only You Were Lonely to 2013’s Zero. Tragically, in 2007, the band’s Rhythm Guitarist and Backing Vocalist Casey Calvert would pass away, leaving the group as a quartet.
Some line-up changes and legal snafus followed, but the band ultimately soldiered onward. Throughout their career, the boys have shared stages with the likes of Linkin Park, Chris Cornell, Atreyu, The Bravery, Armor For Sleep, 10 Years, and many, many more. They are, of course, no strangers to Warped Tour, as well.
Now, Hawthorne Heights – Vocalist/Guitarist/Keyboardist JT Woodruff, Guitarist/Vocalist Mark McMillon, Bassist Matt Ridenour, and Drummer Chris Popadak – are back with their first full-length recording in five years and their sixth full-length studio offering overall, Bad Frequencies. Get ready to put the top down, because the band are hoping that this thirteen-song collection will give listeners a soundtrack for the best summer of their lives!
Bad Frequencies tunes in with the wistful melancholia beneath the surface of the aptly-titled “In Gloom,” a reminiscence of times past and a reflection on the shrinking hourglass of life. On the opposite side of the aural spectrum is the upbeat bop of “Pink Hearts,” a lament on how we blindly burn away our bridges (“light a match and burn through some friendship”) as youngsters. “Crimson Sand” is a sound with sonic echoes of old-school AFI and a clear Atreyu influence embedded in its deliciously ruby heart. In fact, throughout the album, McMillon’s “dirty vocal” growls are highly-reminiscent of Atreyu’s Alex Varkatzas’ vocals circa 2002’s Suicide Notes & Butterfly Kisses, which is certainly nothing whatsoever to complain about!
There is a catchy solemnity inside the steady beat of “The Perfect Way To Fall Apart,” while the catchy hip-shake of “Just Another Ghost” is the obvious choice for lead single/video. Titular “Bad Frequencies” begins as an atmospheric, guitar-driven yet delicate romp that builds into some truly gritty and delicious vocal laments thanks to McMillon. Next, there is a sparkling shimmer that evokes summertime romance in “Skylark.”
As the album passes the halfway point, rocking guitars solidify the backbone of “Edge of Town,” a threnody for summer worthy of Warped Tour. Meanwhile, bittersweetness permeates the center of “Starlighter (Echo, Utah)” (“Your voice rang like an echo in the night”), a sing-song tribute to things lost (and not found). Interestingly, there seems to be an attempt at making an LGBTQ Rock anthem with the frustrated and angry, bass-heavy “Push Me Away,” an admission that we fear what we do not understand.
You have to admit that it is tragically ironic that the discussion of the suicidal tendencies and demons that we fight to survive, “The Suicide Mile,” sounds like an Emo Rock wet dream. Next, shimmery guitars and a steady beat anchor “Straight Down The Line” before they close out with the melancholic-adaisical “Pills” (“I’ve always been such an easy kill”), which sees a broken-hearted Woodruff burning photographs of the one that is hardest to live without.
Ultimately, Bad Frequencies is a decent record, a conglomeration of Rock and Pop-Punk sounds, and all of it wrapped up with the band’s characteristic Emo ribbon. Fortunately or unfortunately, Hawthorne Heights could have easily released this record in the early 2000s, and that is a fact that will divide listeners: some will love and embrace Bad Frequencies for its backward glance, while others will simply shrug it off and walk away. Though, in truth, there is nothing really bad about Bad Frequencies: there is just nothing magnificent either. So, while Hawthorne Heights fans are guaranteed to embrace the record, it is unlikely that Bad Frequencies is going to lure in any new listeners. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Hawthorne Heights’ Bad Frequencies 3.5 of 5 stars.