After bouncing back from tragedy with the more mature Skeletons in 2010, Hawthorne Heights continue to grow as a band with Zero, a dystopian, post-hardcore concept album that follows a group of iconoclastic teens known as the Zero Collective as they fight against an oppressive corporation in a near-future middle America. Oftentimes with an album like this, the conceptual elements feel a bit tacked on, but even though the album is filled with lots of big hooks and melodies, there's an underlying darkness to it that shows just how deep into the marrow of the album the concept has penetrated. Even divorced from the narrative, Zero is a solidly crafted album from a band that seems to keep getting better with time and experience.
Hawthorne Heights usually garner a lot of flak from music fans, but in between some of the generic and mundane stuff, they do manage the arbitrary single or three that ain't too shabby at all. I guess it's that nostalgia in me toward the days when Victory used them, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and Silverstein to much better musical effect. Zero isn't their best material, and it isn't that impressive on the whole, but it's not as bad as many would assume off the cuff.
When we last left Hawthorne Heights, the Dayton, Ohio, quartet were two EPs deep into a three-part collection. Since then, the group have added a fifth member, guitarist Mark McMillion, and seemingly ditched the third EP in favor of their fifth-full-length. Billed as a concept album, Zero tells the story of a group of idealistic young rebels who band together to rage against a tyrannical corporation that’s invaded their middle-America hometown.