hatebreedHatebreed in Whelan’s, Dublin, 06/08/2013

The last time American metalcore band Hatebreed paid a visit to this country was for a storming opening slot for Machine Head in the Olympia in 2010. When the finally got their chance to make the step up to headlining act this week, Hatebreed didn’t disappoint.

They brought the full onslaught of their chaotically fast and absurdly heavy musical style, but what really sets them apart as a band is how much of a feel good vibe such seemingly aggressive and destructive music can actually inspire.

Following the savage intensity of Irish hardcore bands Frustration and Only Fumes and Corpses (playing their final ever gig) blood pressures were suitably pumped up for the headline act. But as heavy as the support were, it didn’t take long for Hatebreed to eclipse them. As the band mounted the small stage the first drilling roar of the percussive drumming exploded out across the venue like an insurmountable wall of sound, followed immediately by the chugging frenzy of guitars and bass, and pierced a mere second later by Jamey Jasta’s battle cry of “This is the sound of the lost/ The beaten and broken”, opening lines of To the Threshold.

At the first onrush of music the front few rows of audience members plunged into a furiously swirling mosh pit. As Hatebreed seemed to play even faster with each passing song the manic whirlpool of banging heads and upraised fists got faster too. Despite the raw ferocity of his screaming vocals, Jamey Jasta played the entire gig with a huge grin plastered across his face. He paused between songs to swap stories with the audience or crack jokes with his band, giving every impression of a man who couldn’t possibly enjoy his job any more.

It should have been impossible to maintain such liveliness over the entire gig, but there was hardly a single moment of calm in a set of over thirty songs. Things only kept getting faster and more intense. A stream of metalheads in black t-shirts and bare-chested Henry Rollins lookalikes dived off the stage and surfed through the crowd, and Jasta and co. only egged the eager audience on to even greater levels of insanity – sure in the knowledge that the key to setting everything aside and enjoying the music was to remove any and all inhibitions and succumbing to the chaos.

Though they may technically have been touring their latest album “The Divinity of Purpose”, the show had much more of a greatest hits feel to it. Hatebreed hit songs from every one of their eight albums, including a cover of Slayer’s Ghosts of War from the “For the Lions” album; “I’m sure Jeff Hanneman is looking up at us right now,” quipped Jasta.

Throughout everything, Hatebreed played with the kind of apocalyptic ferocity of a band giving it their all for one last farewell show. This may be close to the truth – with commitments to a US tour and recording sessions for a new album in 2014, it is unlikely the band will be back in Ireland any time soon. But if that’s the price to be paid for one of the most incredibly enjoyable metal gigs of the year, it seems like a fair deal.

As the show neared its end, guitarist Frank Novinec prompted the audience to sing a round of Happy Birthday for Jasta, who turned fifty at midnight. “There’s no place I’d rather be to celebrate it,” the singer responded. This could easily have been more than insincere “you are the best audience ever” type of banter, except for the fact that there was something undeniably genuine about Jasta’s shamelessly over-outgoing personality. Maybe it is just hard to distrust someone who seems so genuinely cheerful all the time, something Jasta manages to maintain impeccably despite all the aggression of the music.

The gig powered through to its cataclysmic conclusion, with the likes of A Call for Blood, As Diehard as the Come whipping up a sweaty, tired audience into one final melee of hardcore chaos. Hatebreed finished the show with a devastatingly fast and frantic rendition of Destroy Everything.

But why the feel good factor? Simply put, there is something incredibly cathartic about a Hatebreed show. The super-fast songs with chant-along chorus lines and hurricane instrumentals produce a kind of carefree abandonment of outside pressures. Screaming and moshing to the music of Hatebreed is a pretty damn good way to forget about all the shit that’s going on in your life, to release all that pent up rage at things that have gone wrong, to become a little bit crazy and unhinged and primal for a couple of hours.

That’s why most of the audience left the show grinning as widely as Jamey Jasta.