Used to be protracted legal battles were the domain of more established artists bickering over back-catalog royalties or accounting malfeasance. Similarly, most bands don’t experience the untimely death of a member and/or a vicious feud until they’re well past their prime. But while Hawthorne Heights have effectively checked all three milestones off their Career To-Do list (suing and being countersued by Victory Records, losing guitarist Casey Calvert at 26 to combined drug intoxication and sparring with Vegas native Ne-Yo, respectively), the post-hardcore punks have also managed to compartmentalize the drama and release a surprisingly solid and admirably evolved third effort.
Sans designated shrieker Calvert, the now-four-piece embrace a new-beginnings mind-set, ditching their screamo-pop histrionics and surpassing previous chart-toppers with a cohesive, endlessly melodic rock album. Whereas most freshly “mature” bands trade at-all-costs enthusiasm for bland, often generic radio contenders, Hawthorne Heights’ remaining members get highly personal with deeply introspective explorations of the downside of musical success (“Somewhere in Between”), the march of time (“321”), loss of faith (“Disaster”) and yes, personal tragedy (“Four Become One”). There are dark atmospherics, to be sure, but there’s also an overarching theme of defiant endurance. To paraphrase borrowed lyrics from fellow chart-topping scene-makers My Chemical Romance, they’re okay now … they promise.
The bottom line: ***1/2