It’s crazy to have watched the Escape The Fate name progress. Through excruciating line-up changes and several different approaches at the end of the day the same band is still standing there, but somehow bigger and bolder each time. This has rang true for four albums and nine years now.
Curious listeners in regards to album number five aren’t wrong to possess some uncertainty – this is, after all, a damned near totally revamped lineup from 2013’s Ungrateful. If one holds the title of being an Escape The Fate fan though, they’re probably used to hearing several different (and temporary) musicians across the band’s discography. Will the signature amount of musical quality be upheld with Hate Me?
All questions are brought to a hush as soon as the album comes crashing in with “Just A Memory”: sweeping guitar shredding, heavy chugging rhythms and energetic drumming are some of the first sounds the listener is greeted with after an eerie lead-in that is reminiscent of a music box. After that, vocalist Craig Mabbitt comes in sounding significantly more peeved off than usual, his screams carrying an impressive portrayal of anger. The song itself is by no means lacking either. It’s huge; containing a bridge, a breakdown AND the most impressive Escape The Fate guitar solo to-date that calls to mind Herman Li of Dragonforce. Already with this opening track it’s abundantly clear that this is the most focused Escape The Fate have been as a unit for quite awhile. What remains to be seen is what the rest of the album holds.
The transition from track 1 to track 2 is smooth. It’s the dramatic stylistic change in the music that is quite abrupt. Perhaps the biggest head-turner on the album is track 2, “Live For Today”. It’s far and away nothing like “Just A Memory”. Whereas that song was a kick to the teeth, this is more like a pat to the bum. Anyone who has actively followed ETF knows they can write a catchy pop rock song, but this particular song is more like something Ke$ha would do. Auto-tune, vocal stutters and a dance beat change the tone tenfold. The crazy part? It’s well-done. The guitar solo could have been longer, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable little jam.
If the listener got past the biggest listening curve on the album they’re in luck. The next few songs that follow each make sense in coordination with what preceded them. “Remember Every Scar” is a soaring rock anthem that isn’t shy about implying that lighters will go up in the sky when played live nor potentially referencing Journey’s pre-chorus hook to “Don’t Stop Believing”. “Breaking Me Down” is the album’s sole ballad and it is just as emotive and melodramatic as anything an 80’s glam outfit could throw in the way. The energy amps up significantly when “Alive” roars in with multiple air-guitar worthy solos and a massive chorus that would make Brent Smith from Shinedown proud. It’s becoming quickly apparent why new guitarist Kevin Gruff dons the nickname “Thrasher”. His licks owe equally to Motley Crue just as much as they do to Unearth. He is a phenomenal guitarist and should greatly please any remaining ETF fan, especially considering that he stays true to the shreddy, larger-than-life style that the Money bros. established in the band’s prior instrumentation.
“Get Up, Get Out” is a perfect balance of the pop sensibilities, dancy beats and sleazy guitar-work that is presented on the album. It includes a few screams from Craig for good measure, but this one feels more akin to 70’s rock and roll mixed with modern hard rock. The album’s title track isn’t definitive when taken on its own, but when viewed with the rest of the album it makes sense why it was chosen to be the representation of the album’s title: it’s insanely different from the rest of the album. It’s still a rock song, but it’s closer to industrial heaviness than it is to rock heaviness. It’s grimy, heavier on the beats than it is on shredding and full of weird vocal samples. With this one song the album changes tone once again to a darker shade of rock, approaching metal territory that is more similar to the album opening track.
It’s why “Les Enfants Terrible (The Terrible Children)” is so satisfying. The whole band is on full display here, drummer Robert Ortiz getting some abundant double-kick in during the chorus. Craig’s screams return to the forefront for the first time since the first track. Rhythm guitarist TJ Bell contributes greatly to the concrete heavy rhythms and the background screams in the choruses. Then there’s the (INSANE) bridge section in which Kevin reaches a new level of shred. The entire song is catchy, right down to the structure of the vocal delivery and the memorable chant in the aforementioned bridge. Notable is the fact that the song is based off the video game Metal Gear Solid. Escape The Fate were well-known for their “Guillotine” trilogy of songs which were loosely based off the Halo video game series, so it’s possible that this song is a spiritual successor to that lyrical approach.
“I Won’t Break” is vengeful and full of persistence. It’s overall mood is just as heavy as the previous track with less screams, but its approach is much more brooding. The dubstep samples are unnecessary but do act as buildup for the song to explode TWICE. And it’s to be believed that this song detonates into one of the album’s most intense moments.
As if the last few tracks were a storm the closing track “Let Me Be” is the rainbow that follows. It’s a vastly different style from again, EVERY track on Hate Me, but that unpredictable nature is what has made this album so fun to listen to. It’s primarily an acoustic wind-down in the vein of One Republic, but features a guitar solo that represents the 80’s rock era more than it does modern pop. That crossover of timelines keeps the song interesting as the album fades out.
Hate Me is possibly the most wholly entertaining Escape The Fate album to date. Its diversity is staggering, its performances are professional and the consistency of identity despite such fleeting style changes from song-to-song is refreshing. Though ETF tried this back in 2011 with their self-titled record Hate Me is a much more definitive record than anything the band have released prior. Its accessibility and wide display of talent as well as love for music as a passion is sure to connect with several listeners of the rock genre. No band in 2015 is quite as good as pulling off this balancing act of genres. Because of this one word comes to mind that describes Escape The Fate: fun.