After dealing with the death of Casey Calvert and a series of legal battles with their former label, Victory Records, it was clear from the sound on Fragile Future that Hawthorne Heights had emerged from their trials (both literal and figurative) a more mature band. After making the conscious decision not to replace Calvert, instead having guitarist Micah Carli take over as the resident screamer, the band delivered their most refined album to date with Skeletons. At a glance, it might feel like this is their tamest effort, and in some ways it is. The music doesn’t have the intensity of their earlier work, lacking the raw power of their three-guitar assault, and the unclean vocals are almost nonexistent. That said, their songwriting feels tighter and more deliberate. Rather than trying to force themselves back into their older sound, the band is working with what they have without trying to fill the gap left by Carli. While the music may seem more scaled back, the lyrics feel rawer and more emotional, even without the use of the screaming vocal dynamic. Themes of loss and grief are at the forefront here, with the band still clearly coping with the death of a dear friend, as well as the unfortunate loss of J.T. Woodruff’s mother (who was given a touching dedication in the liner notes). “Bring You Back” and “Gravestones” are heartfelt coping anthems, showing the band at their most emotional without any traces of angst. Longtime fans of Hawthorne Heights will be able to appreciate the vulnerability here as they witness the band at their most exposed, seeing through to their titular skeletons.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney