Music Reviews
For the Lions

Hatebreed For the Lions

(Koch) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Hatebreed, though it has now produced six full-length albums, is somewhat of a cult band. There is a selective group of metal and hardcore ensembles – a musical Mensa of blogger-approved groups – that have garnered the respect of rock critics but have developed a complicated relationship with fans that actually identify with the music’s culture. In a way, Mastodon is now the Kanye West of thrash – metal for people who wouldn’t normally enjoy metal. Hatebreed, on the other hand, represents a less accessible kind of metalcore. Its members are not here to change anyone's conception of the genre. To them, the genre in its purist form is good enough, and that – even with the unfortunate Hot Topic association – has earned them significant respect among legions of head-bangers. Their latest album is a tribute to the people who made that genre what it is.

For the Lions is a cover album, but more than that, it is a lionization (get it?) of the bands from the past that inspired Hatebreed’s sound and attitude, which is dominated by furious tempos, jet-engine distortion, and often vitriolic lyrics. From a metal magazine angle – one that evaluates music mostly in terms of brutality and musicianship – For the Lions is undeniably successful. What's disappointing is that the album offers few surprises. What made Rage Against the Machine's Renegades special was its willingness to put such diverse songs through the De la Rocha/Morello filter. Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad and Dylan's Maggie's Farm were unexpected choices but made sense given Rage’s populist politics. Hatebreed’s selections are comparatively obvious. It wasn’t exactly imaginative to cover The Misfits’ Hatebreeders, though the balls-out performance makes it one of the highlights of the album.

Other fine moments include Black Flag’s Thirsty and Miserable, which kicks off with one of the best howls Jamey Jasta has ever pulled off. Equally thrilling are Slayer’s Ghosts of War and Metallica’s Escape. The set-list also includes of a litany of legendary hardcore bands such as Suicidal Tendencies and Agnostic Front, harking to a style of music most people haven’t paid attention to since the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Even Bad Brains gets an inspired shout-out with the stop-start chaos of Supertouch/Shitfit.

With all these highlights considered, though, there are too many times when the record lulls. Overstuffed and a little undercooked, Lions suffers from the fact that Hatebreed’s influences aren’t terribly diverse, and many of the short, hard, and fast numbers tend to blend together in a way that won’t appeal to anyone without a working knowledge of the American hardcore canon. Perhaps the greatest irony of For the Lions is that these punks are entirely too respectful. These guys don’t kill their idols; they encase them in gold. Philosophical issues aside, though, there are some killer moments on this album. It may be total trash, but – in its own way – it is awesome trash and a worthy addition to any hardcore fan’s collection.