When extreme times call for extreme music, extreme music calls for Hatebreed. Yes, the same Hatebreed that turned OZZfest on end in the summer of 2001, their sidestage performances inspiring mosh pits that consumed thousands of fans, their music bleeding the blitzkrieg of hardcore with the metallic thunder of extreme metal, and their message opting for the profound, rather than the profane.
The hardcore scene was at an all-time low in Connecticut when Hatebreed formed seven years ago, so they brought it back. Their first tour was filled with performances in garages, backyards, an infrequent veteran’s hall, and an even less frequent date with a real promoter, and they traveled from show to show in unregistered, uninsured vehicles. Most of which they didn’t even own. They sold their demos, 45’s and t-shirts from the back of the car, and hung photocopied posters to mark their territory. It was a do or die work ethic, and Hatebreed did it themselves and people started to notice. By the end of 1996, they were the top-selling band for indie distributor Victory Records, and with the release of their full-length debut Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire in 1997, they were a marquee hardcore draw in the Northeast. The album was released through Victory, but the indie-circulation couldn’t contain the band’s exploding fanbase, and ensuing tours with Earth Crisis, Agnostic Front, Entombed, Soulfly, Motorhead and Danzig paved their molten path from underground icons, to leaders of the metal-core movement. By the time they took to the road as part of the inaugural Tattoo The Earth tour in 2000, one of the best-kept secrets in heavy music had gone public.
“Hardcore is mainly reality-based, it’s the stuff that affects you everyday, and the fan singing along could just as easily be a member of the band–in metal, you’re the guy with the lights in your hair, a smoke machine, and expensive equipment,” says Jasta of the two schools that united to form Hatebreed. “But as soon as you get the riffs, the drums, the fast beats and the screaming, you see the similarities. We always wanted to take the best of the New York hardcore sound and add the brutality of the early-’90s death metal and thrash, making it more catchy and less abrasive.”
That Hatebreed vision comes to fruition with the release of Perseverance in March 2002. The Universal Records release marks the major label debut for the Nutmeg State’s premier extreme band, catapulting the six-year-old outfit to the forefront of America’s exploding heavy music scene. Riding the unflinching charge of “Proven,” you could hear the incendiary slam of Slayer, while “I Will Be Heard” is the epic outcry of a generation looking for a voice. “This is definitely a much more extreme Hatebreed,” attests Jasta. “But with what’s happening right now, people are pissed–this is a way to escape. People are feeling our messages, and I’m psyched. If you listen to a lot of the lyrics that are out there right now, there are not a lot that are really telling it like it is. At the end of the day, we play shows and we entertain people, but I really hope we are more than entertainment. I want people to walk away from our show and be inspired to do something with their lives–we are proof-positive that anything is possible, and that’s why we named the record Perseverance.”
Perseverance comes from driving from show to show with barely enough money in the till to fill the gas tank. And when you can fill the tank? There’s no telling if the car will even make it the next stop. “We were in the middle of Texas, our van broke down, and nine of us had to ride in the back of a pickup truck from El Paso to Austin, because if we missed one more show we’d be thrown off the tour,” recalls Jasta of Hatebreed’s tour with Soulfly. “I wanted the lyrics to reflect that–the drive that takes something from nothing when it is your dream. Even if you are a cook and want to be a four-star chef, we are an example of how hard work and perseverance could turn into something.”
This is for the kids who have nowhere to turn, who have nothing to live for. “You think you haven’t the will to persist, you have to search within yourself” Jasta snaps on “You’re Never Alone,” an anthem for the lifestyle that has helped the modern-metal movement surge to the attention of mainstream America. Make no mistake, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting to hear Hatebreed on pop radio, but in a scene dominated by the likes of Slipknot, System Of A Down and Staind, Hatebreed are poised to turn the underground upside down, emptying the misanthropic contents on an unsuspecting American public.
“The world needs this record,” says Jasta. “With America the way it is today, this music is real, it’s tangible–people can latch onto it, and anyone can relate to it. This is extreme music for extreme times, it’s a release. When I go onstage, I forget about all my problems, I forget about being away from my kid, I get it out, and people need that. I see kids every night on tour, and they come up to me and say things like, ‘Jamey, my friend was killed and I was never able to get over his death until I heard your song ‘Last Breath.” Or, ‘I had an abusive boyfriend, and I was never able to leave him until I heard your song.’ To have someone say something like that to you really puts everything in perspective.”
Whether that perspective caters to the hardcore enthusiast in the form of “Healing To Suffer Again,” or sears the heavens with the accompaniment of Slayer guitarist Kerry King on “Final Prayer,” the culmination is a musical melee armed and dangerous, and intent on making an impact. There’s no gimmick, and all the hype is left obliterated by a tidal wave of sonic demolition. Brace yourselves, America, because extreme times call for extreme music–and Hatebreed have answered the call.
“There are solutions,” sums Jasta. “Take everything that surrounds you that’s negative, and use that negativity to make something–use that hatred to do the right thing. I have a lot of contempt for a lot of the stuff that goes on in this world, but I use that hatred to make music that helps me sleep at night. If I wasn’t in this band, I’d probably be locked up in an insane asylum, and I think it’s the same way for our fans. There are records that I can’t live without, and I wanted to make one of those records.”