Heavy music and dark lyrics undergird positive message
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It can’t be easy to be, simultaneously, one of the most understood and misunderstood bands on the planet.
Yet, Hatebreed has pulled it off for 25 years, amassing a huge, loyal fan base that knows exactly what the band stands for, while also occasionally getting caught up in controversy generated by people who just don’t get it.
It has to be exhausting, but lead singer Jamey Jasta and the band are determined to keep making it work.
Making a difference
What Hatebreed’s fans understand is that underneath the heaviness of the band’s music and the dark topics of its lyrics lies a foundation of positivity and inspiration. Jasta lays it out when he describes, for instance, his motivation for writing the song “Something’s Off,” from the band’s latest album, The Concrete Confessional.
“I’ve written songs about depression, alcoholism, and falling back into destructive patterns,” he said. “However, I never felt like I could really put my finger on what anxiety is. It’s not just social anxiety but this unexplained feeling of unease, like I’m in a fog. I’ve felt it occasionally since I was in grade school. You can’t control when it happens. Heavy music has kept that beast at bay — in addition to exercise and experiences with my family. I had to confront it directly in the lyrics.”
Jasta sees the results of his music when he talks to fans, and their feedback confirms what he already knows: that he can make a difference in people’s lives.
“So many fans will tell us, ‘Your records help me get through my life,’” he said. “I need to encourage this cyclical power to get up and face the day. You either make the best of today, or you’re done in by it.”
Hardcore and Misunderstood
The band’s music and message has attracted a devoted fan base, but they’ve also been about as close to mainstream success as hardcore bands ever get. They’ve released seven studio albums, six of which cracked the top 50 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and even scored a Grammy nomination in 2004.
But when your band’s name is Hatebreed and you make aggressive music about difficult topics, you’re almost guaranteed to face prejudice from people who get the wrong idea about who you are and what you represent.
After a racially motivated shooting in 2012, CNN included Hatebreed in a list of bands that the network said inspired white supremacists, an accusation that the band strongly denied. CNN admitted its mistake, issued a correction, and apologized, but the incident made clear that many people are quick to judge a book by its cover without making any effort to take even the slightest glance inside.
Jasta is undeterred, however. He fights back against the erroneous notions about his music, whether the misconceptions come from the outside or from his own audiences. He’s been known to be a peacemaker from the stage when he sees something going wrong in the crowd, making clear that there’s no place for bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism, or harassment at Hatebreed’s shows.
“Heavy music is this cleansing, therapeutic, and cathartic experience for so many,” he said. “You’re there, the guitars are crushing you, and someone’s screaming their head off, sharing their pain and aspects of their life through words, poetry, or songs. There’s nothing like it. You confess you have negative thoughts, and you purge them. For however long you’re at the show, there are no bills to pay, issues to deal with, or problems holding you back. You can be free.”
Huge show at the Clyde
The shows on Hatebreed’s current tour are sure to be extra therapeutic, because they’re huge. The band has designed the tour on a festival model, with a full slate of bands starting early and playing well into the night. The bill for the Fort Wayne show includes Obituary, Madball, Prong, and Skeletal Remains.
“We’re excited to bring out this massive tour package with some of our favorite bands,” Jasta said. “Every band on this bill is a headliner in their own right.”
The experience might be too much for those who are determined to misunderstand, to think that there’s no way that screaming about pain and darkness can be anything but negative.
But for the audiences that get it, a show like Hatebreed’s offers a chance to leave feeling better than you did when you walked in.
“There’s nothing better than loud amps in the face, cranked up riffs that hit you right in the chest, and lyrics that spark a new thought and give you a charge,” Jasta said. “That’s our musical DNA.”