No matter how much it gets shat on, metalcore is a genre that carries with it a great potential. Think about it: the blunt force of hardcore meeting metal. Shouldn’t be a hard formula to fuck up, yet somehow it’s 2017 and the amount of bands to truly do something special within metalcore is woefully small. Hatebreed brought their untouchable brand of face-smashing violence in the late nineties, Killswitch Engage brought their massive hooks in 2006, and Avenged Sevenfold set the bar for all future metalcore releases in 2003 with Waking the Fallen. But in the time since, metalcore has fallen into a rather grim place. At some point it became hip to structure entire songs around breakdowns and substitute open sixth string chugs for riffs. It was also at this time that seemingly every disenfranchised teenager going through their this-isn’t-just-a-phase phase decided to grow out their hair and start a metalcore band. This lead to an influx of Hot Topic scensters into what was once a promising, vibrant genre.
Now back to 2017 where Hollow have released their debut album Home Is Not Where the Heart Is. I picked this one up with high hopes. Really. I like metalcore. My favourite band (the aforementioned Avenged Sevenfold) started out as a Metalcore Band. Bury Tomorrow, the metalcore upstarts from England, are one of my favourite new bands. Early Trivium is nearly daily listening in my house. So that’s why I’m so upset at what I got with Home Is Not Where the Heart Is, or HINWtHI, as I’ll call it from this point on.
The opening track, “Coward King,” sets the mood right away. After maybe three seconds of pummelling drums, the vocals kick in. And oh boy, do they ever make an impression. The shrill, hardcore shouts and screams are relentlessly grating, and don’t get me started on the clean vocals. But I suppose now that I’ve brought them up, I oughta talk about em. The clean vocals are quite obviously autotuned, and even then they manage to be irritating and nasal. Imagine if you will, a nightmarish reality where The Amity Affliction’s vocalist decided to start a side project while suffering from congested sinuses. That nightmare is pretty damn close to Hollow’s reality, as the vocals are only slightly worse than Joel Birch’s whiny crooning.
But bad vocals aren’t necessarily a dealbreaker. If the musicianship is tight enough, maybe Hollow can steer this sinking ship back into shallow waters safely. Sadly, HIWtHI’s best feature are the vocals. The “riffs” (and even though it’s in quotation marks, I still use the word lightly) are practically nonexistent. Every once in a while it almost sounds as if the fifth, or sometimes even the fourth strings get strummed, but as quickly as these moments come, they leave again in favour of putting the poor sixth string to the ultimate stress-test. Seriously, do theses guys go to Guitar Center JUST to buy replacement sixth strings? Chug after chug, breakdown after break, HIWtHI seems to crawl by at a snail’s pace, even though it’s only thirty-six minutes.
In lieu of writing riffs, Hollow decided that what their album needed was some electronica placed way too high in the album’s mix. If you hated it when iwrestledabearonce and We Butter Our Bread With Butter did it (and you should), you’ll hate it here. Sometimes, just when you think Hollow are building up to some kind of breakdown, they’ll throw a curveball at you and pepper your ears with high-pitched electronic screeches and whirls masquerading as parts of a song. It was this that made a tedious album into a complete dumpster fire in my eyes.
This review is more about informing you, the dear readers, about the accursed pile of audio diarrhea that this album is than it is about providing constructive criticism for the band. Though if I had one bit of advice to offer them moving forward: put more emphasis on the drums in the mix. Every once in a while I’d have my attention wrestled away from the obnoxious vocals and droning electronics due to an interesting fill or oddly-timed beat. Other than that though, I have nothing to tell them other than “do better.” There’s no other areas of potential for me to tell them to expand upon, no interesting song structures I’d like to hear more of, and no unique ideas that will compel me to look past the album’s flaws and revisit it. Home Is Not Where the Heart Is is modern metalcore at its most generic. Tired and lifeless chugs, vocals that are a complete studio creation, endless breakdowns all wrapped up an a nice little bow and marketed towards edgy kids who sit in the back of the classroom and draw on their arms. I’ll tell you what though, if you’ve got a Black Veil Brides poster in your room, you listen to Blood on the Dancefloor and have ever, even once, identified as ’emo,’ you’ll fuckin’ love Hollow. Now, back to listening to Avenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare for the seven hundredth time to wash this filth from my ears.
Home Is Not Where the Heart Is can be purchased via Hollow’s official website.