If you know Hatebreed, you probably recognize them when you hear them. They haven't so much created a unique sound as carved out a peculiar niche at the intersection of hardcore and metal.
You can hear the influence of thrash in the serrated metal guitar chug, while the vocals scream punk, both in their hectoring sloganeering and socio-political bent.
"People argue if Hatebreed is metal or hardcore. It's simple: We're neither. We're a crossover band," says Hatebreed guitarist Frank Novinec, whose previous bands included Terror, Ringworm, and Integrity. "We've broken into the metal scene more than any other act from the hardcore scene that I can remember. And it's a fine line that we walk when we make songs and down to deciding what T-shirt to wear."
Novinec is speaking from Stuttgart, Germany, where the band's current tourmates speak to that balancing act. They're out with punkers H2O, hardcore legends Agnostic Front, German power/death metal act Neaera, and alt-metal vets the Acacia Strain. Of course, such tours are a little easier in Europe, where there tends to be a greater sense of common purpose.
"Over here you have a lot more unity amongst the scenes. I think that, in the States, the younger kids are blinded by imagery and things besides the music," says Novinec, who joined Hatebreed in 2006. "Nowadays you have all these subgenres and division amongst the scene. We just try to keep it tight and bring it all together. It's all aggressive music at the end of the day. That's what it is."
The Connecticut-born quintet is entering its 19th year and supporting its seventh studio full-length, Divinity of Purpose. The album follows their twin 2009 releases, the fine covers collection, For the Lions, and a more experimental self-titled album. For that one, they tinkered with the pace, slowing it down and finding room for greater melody. By comparison, the new album's a back-to-basics release — as much as you can say that about Hatebreed.
"It's definitely more meat and potatoes," Novinec says. "We try not to stray too far from the formula. If it's not broken why try to fix it? We're more the AC/DC or Motörhead of our time. That's what people expect from Hatebreed.
"But we're able to make it fresh and that's what's important. Obviously a hardcore band that's been going at it so long, you always want to breathe some fresh air into the balloon."
One burst of fresh air came in the wake of longtime guitarist Sean Martin's 2009 departure. The band brought back founding guitarist Wayne Lozinak, who'd been gone for more than a dozen years. Lozinak rejoined original members singer Jamey Jasta and bassist Chris Beattie.
"He's really an awesome person and an amazing guitar player," says Novinec. "He'd left the band and years later, when the band blew up, he ended up teching for us. Now he's back in the band and he's come full circle."
Meanwhile, fans are also onboard, keeping Hatebreed alive for close to two decades.
"I'm just really happy that we continue to be a force after the way the Internet has wiped out the music industry," Novinec says. "Fortunately the younger kids are able to get into the older bands, to school themselves on the roots of this music and take it from there."