Dayton post-hardcore (or emo-rock, depending on whom you talk to) veterans Hawthorne Heights are in the midst of a new era as more or less an independent band. Following big success buoyed by some huge hits (“Ohio Is For Lovers”, “Saying Sorry”) they are in the midst of a three part project. The HOPE EP is the second of these parts, and it is a generous EP with eight songs.
The EP crawls out of the gate with the minute and a half “There Was a Kid (Part 2).” Hawthorne is one of the last bands I would expect to use spoken word effectively, but they do here. The short track is more than an intro track, but eases us into the concept of the EP, to “sing a song of hope.” “New Winter” brings us straight into classic Hawthorne Heights territory in a rocking tune that sounds like a sequel to “Saying Sorry.” Radio could easily pick this up but it doesn’t jive enough with current trends to do this, unfortunately. That’s OK though – independent bands seldom exist for radio’s sake, and Hawthorne has never really fallen into that camp.
The record continues with “Running in Place (NIKI AM)” in what surely must be somewhat of follow-up to their early hit “Niki FM.” The sound has an interesting start with a sort of breakdown. “Stranded” sheds some of the emocore tendencies of the previous track to create tension with lots of distortion and surreal undertones. The surreal tones peak in a rather obnoxious riff that can only be described as a squeal as they mutter “Lord, where did I go wrong?” This isn’t really enjoyable, but it certainly communicates the mood of the song well. “Nowhere Fast” brings us to a mid tempo easy listening vibe for just over two minutes. The title track has an ironically pessimistic direction, especially in the beginning but the more optimistic sounding melody keeps us from getting too confused. Gang vocals serve as the ultimately climactic pick-me-up in the song, singing the praises of carrying an attitude of hope. “Vandemonium” and “Chemicals” end the project on somewhat less memorable but still solid notes.
Hawthorne Heights may have faded a bit, but they are as entrenched in their identity as ever and it shows. The mark of a true artist is full embrace of their identity, something they have done. The EP holds together well, even though its a bit lackluster in mixing quality and doesn’t really do anything terribly groundbreaking. It’s worth a listen for even the casual nostalgic Hawthorne Heights fan.