Recording the new Hatebreed album was an on-again/off-again process, but for fans, The Divinity Of Purpose is nonstop intensity – especially the drumming. Once again, Hatebreed drummer Matt Byrne wraps up smarts, spontaneity, and unchained energy in one powerful package.
Byrne and his bandmates made Divinity, their sixth record, with an unusual workflow. They recorded at engineer Nick Bellmore’s Connecticut studio, Dexter’s Lab, located inside an office business park that allows all the noise necessary – as long as its after 5 p.m. To comply with the rules and move forward quickly, Hatebreed’s members had to cut demos and the album tracks by showing up on different days and recording separately – without ever jamming in the same room together.
This counter-intuitive writing process was cut up even further by frequent two-week tours to Europe. “Usually when you plan out a record,” Byrne notes, “you do preproduction, get all the tones dialed in, then concentrate on the recording process. But this was a constant push-and-pull type of schedule, which is different for us.”
The band’s battle is evident on “Before The Fight Ends You”, the first track completed with this workflow for Divinity. The first nine seconds of the song kicks in with a series of kick/cymbal choke double shots that shoot out in synch with a nasty staccato six string. “I’m really just accenting, putting tags on the guitar riff,” says Byrne. “It’s a busy riff, so having those pops and tags over it accents some of the complicatedness of the riff. Then I follow that up with a half-time beat to kind of smooth it over, and add a head-bobbing groove to it.”
And so he does. At 0:09, two explosive shots on the snare lead to a meaty beat – it’s a slow, hard strut that brings aggression to a slow boil. “I like to call it a ’caveman beat,’” Byrne grins. “It’s half-time on the hi-hat, and along with the kick and snare it slams you. It’s very Neanderthal style – that’s become one of Hatebreed’s trademarks. Whereas a lot of people would put a fast double bass beat there, I go the opposite way.”
Big fills appear in the pattern, and at 0:27 one leads directly into a temporary upshift to a punk/oi! beat, that then throttles down into Byrne’s caveman mode, all the better to back singer Jamey Jasta’s ferocious vocals. “This was the first song we worked on when we were writing the new record,” he explains, “and kind of parallels the push and pull of it. The half-time groove beat with the punk beat, and the whole linear fill – it’s slow, then it’s fast. This song is smooth with groove, but it’s also choppy.
“It also sums up the whole song in that there’s all those styles throughout. I think it makes it interesting. Instead of the song being one tempo, there’s these bursts of a different energy. And that’s the type of band that we are, a crossover between heavy metal and hardcore, and this song has all these styles of drumming in it.”
It’s not all about brutal fills and sledgehammer time shifts, however. For subtlety, listen to the single ride ping Byrne throws in the middle of a double kick/snare combo fill. “I like to utilize whatever I have around me on the kit,” says Byrne. “I don’t have 23 cymbals and 17 drums, but whatever sound sources I’m surrounded by, I use. I try to throw some bells and whistles in there and make it a little more interesting.”
Album: The Divinity Of Purpose
Song: “Before The Fight Ends You”
There’s another “double shot” sequence repeated at 1:07, and Byrne shoots out one of the song’s many lightning-fast kick/snare snare combinations at 1:39. “It’s the perfect opportunity to do something that stands out or shines,” he notes. “Given that space in the song, you know, ’I could do something really cool here.’ Then you ride that fine line of overplaying or not doing enough. I tried to find that middle ground with that spot. There’s just wide-open hanging space there, so I figured I’d do a cool pattern doing four hits on the snare, followed by double hits on the snare to drop right back into the beat.”
What Byrne chooses not to do is equally worth inquiry: Why decline to hit a cymbal after the big fill at 2:11? “It’s the Slayer influence – Dave Lombardo. You have a box of pots and pans and you throw it down the stairs. That’s the vibe of the fill, all over the place and real chaotic. By not hitting the cymbal, you don’t relieve the tension. It’s a burst of energy that doesn’t end the way you’d expect it to – it falls right back into the groove.”
The bridge, such as it is in Hatebreed’s eyes, arrives at 2:30 as Byrne lays into his kit with big, tribal, spaced-out tom thunks under a rhythmically buzzing guitar riff. “The song trails off, and it’s building up to the final crusher riff ending,” says Byrne. “It’s the 16" and 18" floor toms combined with the kick drum, all of them together. I go real primal.
“The space is good there because the song, up that point, is busy with the push and pull, the punk beat, etc … it’s a rollercoaster ride for two-and-a-half minutes. We’re like, ’Let’s let the song trail off and make it thump, then go back into the groove.’”
The slow groove kicks back in at 2:43, even stronger and more sumptuous than ever. The band digs in for one more hard, slow churn to the finish. At 3:13, behold the furious fill to the finish, as a double kick/snare combo – including our drummer’s first flam of the day – caps everything off.
“I just synch up completely with the guitar riff,” Byrne says. “The flam isn’t so much, ’Look what I can do!’ as it’s fitting what’s in the song there. So instead of flowing over the guitar with the groove, the drums are locking in staccato and ending the song real abrupt: Boom!”