If Hope Dies keeps hope alive

Most of the time when a music craze catches on, record labels rapidly devour all the spawn from the original band. It happens in every genre. In the early ’90s, Nirvana hit it big, and imitators such as Silverchair and Candlebox came along. In death metal, any band with a gory label and grunting vocals was also able to get signed because of the success of bands such as Cannibal Corpse.

Now, any band that attempts to mix metal and hardcore has a good likelihood of getting a record deal.

So, when a band like If Hope Dies comes around with its mix of metal and hardcore, it is pretty tempting to laugh the band off as imitators, especially among bands such as God Forbid, Killswitch Engage, or even In Flames or Arch Enemy. But laugh you should not.

With layered vocals, breakdowns, guitar solos, and melodic and harmonic lines, If Hope Dies’ latest release, Life in Ruin, does much to capture the captivating sounds of both hardcore and heavy metal.

The first track, “Burned Out,” starts off with pummeling bass drumming and heavy guitars chugging about everywhere, almost reminiscent of the style of Arch Enemy. But unlike Arch Enemy, the music starts to slow right into a breakdown rhythm. For those who are unfamiliar, the breakdown is usually a simple rhythm played simultaneously by the guitars and bass as well as the bass drum with a cracking china cymbal keeping the beat. At a live concert, the breakdown is where the kids get into a pit and start stomping and doing back kicks and other pseudo-karate moves. The speed then picks up, and the song draws to a nice conclusion.

“Anthem for the Unemployable,” the second offering, is a melodic and harmonically driven tune with both guitars standing out clearly underneath the vocals. All seems well until the singer uses a clean voice to sing the song’s chorus. The whine factor of the singer’s voice is virtually unbearable, but the musical quality of the song atones for it.

The true genius of the band shines on track nine. Oftentimes at a rock show, there is some nostalgic, drunk heckler out in the crowd who shouts to the band, “Play some Skynyrd!” So appropriately enough, the song is titled “Some Skynyrd.” And possibly to pay homage, the main riff of the song is somewhat southern in nature but keeps true to the elements of metal and hardcore present on the rest of the album.

If you like Arch Enemy, you may like this album. If you like Hatebreed, you might also like this album. If you like the metal/hardcore hybrid bands Metal Blade Records puts out, these guys are a step above them. If you’re unfamiliar with the hybrid craze and looking for something new, you might like If Hope Dies.