With Honor’s debut full-length, Heart Means Everything, was one of the first albums to be recorded at the newly relocated GodCity, the recording studio run by Converge’s Kurt Ballou. Released in June 2004, it was the follow-up to the previous year’s self-titled debut EP, and established the Connecticut band – vocalist Todd Mackey, guitarists Jay and Jeff Aust, bassist Jack Caron and drummer John Ross – as a true force within the hardcore scene. Initially released on Stillborn Records, the label run by Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta, it was a blistering, full-frontal sonic attack that saw the band play and tour with a whole bunch of their heroes, including Shai Hulud, Stretch Armstrong, Hatebreed, Bane, Sick Of It All, and Agnostic Front, to name a few. Seventeen years later, it’s an album – thanks to this re-release on Pure Noise – that remains every bit as potent and powerful. In fact, it’s even more so.
“We always felt like the album needed that extra something,” says guitarist Jay Aust, “The record was one of the first albums Kurt from Converge recorded at his newly relocated studio, so he was still getting the hang of it. So, we’re stoked to get it out remixed and remastered. It sounds much more like what we all wanted.”
This remixed and remastered version of the record brings to the forefront the raw adrenaline that courses through its veins. From the bellicose rush of opener “Rethink, Return” to the intense, passionate, and determined energy of “All Hope Aside”, the visceral positivity of “Milwaukee”, and the epic call-to-action of closer “When Will We Learn”, Heart Means Everything truly lives up to its title all these years later. While guided by the band’s punk/hardcore principles, it’s not in the least bit didactic or condescending. Rather, it asks questions about the nature of existence and humanity, and searches for answers it knows it doesn’t have. Because nobody has them.
“Obviously a lot has changed since we made it,” says Aust, “but I think some of the core messages still apply. We were young guys exploring the world and finding out who we were. Coming back to it now, you can really see that youthful energy – and the more idealistic view of the world that we had back then.”
Blending melody and aggression and merging the band’s old school hardcore punk sensibilities with more technical, metal influences, Heart Means Everything offers a huge dose of catharsis. It also surges with an overwhelming feeling of freedom and open-mindedness, a desire to break loose from the shackles of the kind of life society thinks you should live. Massive gang vocals solidify that sense of rebellion, solidarity, and youthful hope.
“Maybe we shot for the moon with it,” remembers Aust, “but we had so many crew vocals on this album we thought we might break a record! We had a crew of people just screaming, and by the end all of us were passed out from so many takes.”
One listen and you can hear exactly why. But at the same time, that full-throttle exertion is energizing and inspiring. Thankfully, more people will get to experience it now than ever before.
“Back then,” says Aust, “our measure of success was just whether people were singing along and going nuts while we played, just like all the bands that we grew up on. I don’t know if there was really an endgame – it felt like a ball rolling down a hill and we were trying to pick up as much momentum as we could to reach as many people as possible. That hasn’t changed much, but this feels like more of a proper release for today’s world. Hopefully people that never heard of us will get the chance to check it out.”
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