From the get-go Have Heart has had a rabid and devoted following. Beginning with their demo in 2003 and What Counts EP a year later, the band’s dynamic mixture of youth-crew and metallic hardcore won over fans around the globe. With their debut full-length, The Things We Carry vocalist Pat Flynn and company launched themselves to the forefront of the hardcore scene, highly trumpeted for their energetic shows and the sincerity of their message.
High praise has never been something that Have Heart has lacked. However, for me, there always remained a lack of identity and progression in the band’s sound from their earliest recordings up through their debut full-length. The music was very one-dimensional, which left me wondering what could come with experimentation. After five years, Songs to Scream at the Sun is just that, the band reaching the point in which they’ve been able to showcase their songwriting talents that for too long had remained hidden.
The formulaic over-the-top sing-along anthems they’ve become known for have been greatly adapted, incorporating influences from beyond the world of hardcore, and perhaps even music. There is more experimenting with the structure and thus there is more originality in the band’s sound - no longer are they limited to comparisons to the greats of the ’88 era. Songs to Scream at the Sun is the progression I had long been hoping for, even if I didn’t know it.
With their sound, Have Heart has taken more time to infuse melody and tempo changes. Interweaving melodies and guitar noodling often associated with post-rock and progressive metal poke through. Sure, they do incorporate those aspects typical of hardcore (breakdowns, two-steps, sing-alongs), but they are intertwined into the structure of songs as to not appear out of place and inserted for the sake of just being there, as they seemed to prior.
Perhaps the greatest strength to Have Heart is Flynn’s lyrical exploits. He’s obviously well versed in poetic discourse as the booklet boasts excerpts from the work of E.E. Cummings, Maya Angelou, and Silvia Plath. Through his voice Flynn lets listeners into the mind of a truly dynamic individual. His lyrics speak volumes of his character, revealing a concerned, fragile human being – not something you’d expect from a frontman in a hardcore band. “Pave Paradise” is a discourse on the inner-turmoil of touring in a van for months on end. In “No Roses, No Skies” Flynn sympathizes with the emotional hardships that females endure in the image-conscious world. And perhaps his greatest reveal takes place in “Hard Bark on the Family Tree” as the song touches base on the relationships of a family life, likely Flynn’s own, and the disappointments when expectations are not met.
For Have Heart the direction the band has taken with Songs to Scream at the Sun is one that could drive a gap in their current fan base. Sure, the band’s increased exposure will obviously bring in more new fans, but the directional changes in the music may also alienate longtime listeners of the group. The idea of progression in sound is something that doesn’t go over very well within the hardcore community. Like water and oil, the two are destined to never really mutually coexist. In spite of what others may think, this is Have Heart’s best recording to date, a sign of a matured group of individuals expressing themselves to their fullest abilities.
8.5 / 10
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