2006 — the year that Escape the Fate, the skinny-jeans-sporting, mic-and-axe-wielding, objectively best band on the post-hardcore scene, debuted on Epitaph Records.
With vocalist Ronnie Radke, bassist Max Green and rhythm guitarist Omar Espinosa, the Las Vegas rockers packed quite the melodic punch. Radke swung dexterously between squeaky-clean vocals (that signature squeak on the ends of some lines), guttural growls and raw screams. Meanwhile, Green and Espinosa oscillated between gnarly grooves and majestic melodies.
ETF has since replaced all three of these members, leaving a watered-down sound which will possibly attract them an all-new generation of Hot Topic tweens. Good for them. Indeed, no market demographic is easier to exploit than those who place band image on the same pedestal as the actual music and make liberal purchases with money earned from unfathomably strenuous labor like taking out the trash.
The band’s fifth album and fourth trainwreck, “Hate Me,” is fairly generic post-hardcore. Say goodbye to percussive storms such as “Dragging Dead Bodies…” and dynamic growl-scream-sing exchanges like the one featured on “The Guillotine.” Sure, the recent album still has the hallmark catchiness, as featured on “Alive,” “Les Enfants Terribles” and certain other tracks, but it seethes with safeness.
The vocal department’s progress, or lack thereof, is particularly unsettling. Back in 2008, then-new vocalist Craig Mabbitt unleashed solid harsh vocals, particularly on “This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)”. The band’s 2010 release contained glitched-out, overproduced gutturals which could have been attributed in part to the electronic nature of the record. Indeed, vocals on the 2013 “Ungrateful” were more palatable. But “Hate Me” resumes the disturbing trend of harsh vox digitized and depreciated by the computer. PC sure deserves a pat on the back this decade. It has successfully drowned out the vexatious, offensive and altogether undesirable sound of raw humanity in music.
However flat the vocals are, the melodic hooks of “Hate Me” thrive on them, with the guitars, bass and drums typically only following their lead. Keyboards feature briefly at some points, such as in heavy opener “Just A Memory,” but the cryptic tinge added pales in comparison to the one lent to the band’s 2010 track “Choose Your Fate.”
Escape the Fate may land more airplay on SiriusXM stations with this album, but older releases — especially “There’s No Sympathy for the Dead” — carry more nuance and grit.