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Monday, July 15, 2013

Hope for the Dying -- Aletheia

 photo aletheia_zps90dd7f68.jpg

Sometimes, I love being wrong.
Every few years, a certain genre will get popular, and countless bands will jump on its bandwagon. This usually results in hundreds of boring bands who sound exactly the same. At the turn of the century, it was pop-punk. In the middle of the 00's, it was screamo. In recent years, the cookie-cutter genre has been metalcore, with repetitive tired riffing and the same old chugga-chugga breakdowns on every single song on every single album by every single band.
When I heard Hope for the Dying's name several years ago and saw their album artwork, I immediately lumped them in with the bands I referenced above, and I completely ignored them. Bad move. However, after a recent article by Rick Gebhardt on the always reliable, always underrated Decoy Music recommended Hope for the Dying's newest album, Aletheia, I felt like I had to check them out. Good move. Hope for the Dying is not a cookie-cutter metalcore band. Hope for the Dying is not even a metalcore band.
One look at the track lengths for Aletheia make it immediately apparent that Hope for the Dying is playing progressive metal. It's not like they are the only band in this genre. Between the Buried and me has been putting out incredible music for years, though they've stagnated as of late. Aletheia is not a stagnant album. With each winding passage, acoustic break, tabla-enhanced groove, and unexpected moment, it's clear that Hope for the Dying are not only passionate about the music they are making, but also genuinely enthusiastic  about the turns their songs are taking. Nothing here is just done to be done. This album is emotionally well-plotted, music performed by virtuosos who understand they don't constantly have to proove they are virtuosos. Vocals are almost entirely screamed, though decently sung vocals do crop up from time to time. The lyrics are a high point, deeper than what usually comes with such adventurous music, and they actually hold up and are enhanced by scrutiny. I've saved the most important element for last, though. This is not just a progressive metal album--it's a symphonic progressive metal album. Strings chase Hope for the Dying around through much of Aletheia's runtime. They truly set Aletheia apart from any recent competitors. They are integrated well and feel always like an organic component of the music, never like a gimmick. The strings enhance the power of the band's sound--and Aletheia is a powerful album.
As Hope for the Dying blow through and build up 13-minute closer, "Open up the Sky," it's tough not to be trapped in the momentum. A huge buildup needs an equally huge payoff, and as vocalist, Josh Ditto, belts out Aletheia's final lines:
Close up the earth, command the clouds
let the rain fall, the water pouring down
flood all the rivers, the oceans overflow
Open up the sky! Open up the sky!

it is clear that Hope for the Dying are a band not to be ignored. Every time I hear the beautiful piano outro that follows, I'm even happier about just how wrong I was. In fact, the only thing that would make me happier is if this album could make me a sandwich. I really need to get Subway to sponsor The Nicsperiment or something because this would be the perfect spot to stick an advertisement. Here's a link to the song I just talked about, instead.

2013 Facedown Records
1. Acceptance 9:43
2. Reformation 4:17
3. Iniquitous 5:20
4. In Isolation 8:10
5. Through a Nightmare, Darkly 5:11
6. The Lost 5:30
7. Visions 9:53
8. Serenity 1:59
9. Open up the Sky 12:41

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