Soldiering on has always been part of Hatebreed‘s MO. Since they first emerged onto the hardcore scene in the late ’90s, the Connecticut five-piece has made survival at all costs one of their chief principles. But even a band as hardy as Hatebreed couldn’t have predicted the world-changing sweep of COVID-19, a disease that not only caused mass hysteria but also shut down arguably their most vital resource: live shows. Now, as Hatebreed prepare to drop their eighth studio album Weight of the False Self, one wonders if heavy music’s ultimate stalwarts ever considered shelving this one until they were back in their element.
“That was back and forth,” says guitarist Wayne Iozinak, though he’s quick to add, “but that was mostly the record label wondering what was best to do. You don’t want to put an album out and then you can’t promote it — it’s cool to have songs out there, but at the end of the day, this is still a business. The record company’s gotta make some money off of it, or what’s the point? Finally, we came to the decision that hopefully we’ll be touring next year. And we’ll be giving the fans something — we’ve got merch bundles, signed albums, posters. So at least that gives you something until live shows can come back.”
For Hatebreed fans, Weight of the False Self is definitely a buoy to cling to in the open waters of America under COVID. With considerable gravitas, featuring riffs that err on the side of death metal and lyrics about shedding the negativity from one’s life, the album feels like a grand declaration of Hatebreed’s patented muscular positivity. As such, the record feels especially poetic during these unsure times — even though Wayne says the writing process was completed long before the shit hit the fan.
“It was done,” says the guitarist. “It was all finished in January, actually. We were set to go on a world tour with Parkway Drive at the end of March — and then, weeks before the tour was about to start, everything was canceled. The album was supposed to come out in May, in the middle of the tour. I’m just happy that it’s is coming out this year — nobody knew what was happening. Nuclear Blast only put out a couple of scheduled albums. So I’m happy to give the fans something this year, because it’s been sitting there. We started recording a year ago from last November. We’ve all been waiting for it to come out.”
There were four years between 2016’s The Concrete Confessional and Weight of the False Self. What happened during that time that influenced Hatebreed’s sound on the new record?
We had tons of great shows and tours in four years. The album sticks to the same kind fo formula — we don’t want to change too much, we still have the same basic sound that the Hatebreed fans want to hear — but there’s a few more technical songs, in the metal direction. There’s some more solos. We toured with all kinds of bands, and we’ve toured with Slipknot and done all these big festivals. So there’s a few more solos on this album than maybe previous ones.
I was actually thinking that while listening to “Let Them All Rot” — it has a real death metal edge to it.
Yeah, see, we’re fans of all different styles. We all listen to the thrash, punk, hardcore, so it’s good that we’re in a band where we can incorporate at least a little bit of some of those styles.
Do you ever have to fight your way out of a hard, say, Dead Kennedys or Obituary phase, to make sure you write a Hatebreed song?
Well, we love all of that stuff, but we have to stay the same. We don’t want to change too much, because it’s what the fans expect. Plus, it’s just what we do best. I think sometimes if you go a little too outside the box, it’s not the same. We do give the fans the same thing, but slightly more advanced than we have in the past.
Do you guys listen to any stuff that you have to specifically say, I love this, but it ain’t Hatebreed?
Oh, definitely. You go on the bus at 2am after the show, and you’ll see me and Frank [Novinec, rhythm guitar] up there listening to ‘80s Kiss and Blue Öyster Cult. I don’t think if we tried playing that, it’d work for us.
Even though you’re working with a formula, what about this record sets it apart from the discography?
We have a lot more solos, which I’m a fan of. We’re not known for our guitar solos, and most of our songs don’t have ‘em. There’s a song on this one called “Cling to Life” that’s a little slower, but it’s still kind of heavy — it’s got that palm-muted beat in the background — and then there’s a pretty long, melodic solo. And we also worked with the guitar tone differently on this one, where we blended two different amps to try and thicken up this album, beef it up a little bit and make it even heavier than previous albums. We recorded with four guitar tracks instead of two. So on this one, the guitar tone is, in my opinion, a lot heavier. Definitely fattened up the tone.
That’s cool — how’d that technique come about?
It was actually Jamey [Jasta, vocals]’s idea. He was like, ‘Let’s try something different.’ And working with Zeuss, who’s been our producer and friend for over 20 years, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s try this,’ and worked with different amp and cab combinations. We finally came up with a blend of the Marshall I normally use live and on the other albums, the Marshall TSL100. But we also blended in a little of the EVH amp, the EL34. The combination of the two was just the right blend.
It’s hard to imagine Hatebreed’s guitar tone getting any thicker.
I thought it was fine in the past, but why not? There’s always room for improvement!
Is there a track on the album that you’ve been especially stoked to put out there while sitting on this album?
Definitely — there’s a few on here, but “Cling To Life” is one of them. And I think “A Stroke Of Red” has so many different elements to it. You have to hear it — I can’t even describe the song, but when people hear it, they’re going to think, ‘This isn’t a typical Hatebreed song.’
Did the downtime of quarantine give you time to write more?
No, because we were in the studio right before it hit. We’ve just been waiting for these songs to get released. So we haven’t done any new music — there’s no sense in it, because we probably wouldn’t even record it until who knows when. We did come out with our own beer, though — that’s the one thing that came out of the pandemic, is Breedbrew. We thought, ‘Well, what CAN we do?’ and Chris [Beattie], our bass player, went to a local brewery near his town, got together with them and discussed how they wanted to collaborate with us. It’s a lager pilsner — it’s not an IPA or anything — so you can drink a lot of them. I’m normally a Coors Light kind of guy, so I’m not a connoisseur of craft beers. So if you’re just a regular beer drinker, it’s a step up from most beers.
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For a lot of fans, where Hatebreed truly shine is the live arena. Is it killing you to not play shows right now?
Oh yeah. Especially for me — I love playing live, but besides that, I love going to see other bands. Some of the other guys, when they’re home, they don’t even want to go to a show. Me, I’m just waiting for the next one to come around. I’ll even go to the local bar and see local cover bands play. Now, with a new album out, we haven’t played a show since last October. So it’s a horrible time for live music — ands just for my own enjoyment and sanity.
Your tour with Parkway Drive was rescheduled — what are you guys up to until then?
Really nothing — it’s mostly talks back and forth. We’re talking about maybe doing some livestreaming stuff, which is possible. It’s just not the same for us. We’re a live band with a crowd, where they want to mosh and go crazy. Part of our show is the energy of the crowd — we’re not this big visual band with pyro and everything. At least not yet! So I think a livestream just sitting on your couch watching us, you’ll just destroy your living room. Our tour is rescheduled for March, but I dunno. Doesn’t look too promising. Unless something magical happens and the world comes up with vaccines that are working perfectly and everybody’s taking them. Still working out the details.
Hatebreed’s Weight of the False Self comes out Friday, November 27th, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin