Hope for the Dying – “Alethia”


Alethia 2013Some bands choose to reinvent themselves over time and others choose to change their sound or songwriting approach seemingly on a whim or at least rather abruptly. On Alethia, Hope for the Dying have taken the rather abrupt approach. To my ears, this is album is very much along the lines of Becoming the Archetype’s Celestial Completion album, which happens to be one of my favorites. Alethia is a grand effort at bringing in symphonic and orchestral elements into the progressive metal sound many are familiar.

Hailing from Southern, sort of central, Illinois, Hope for the Dying formed in 2006 and in 2008 gained the attention of Facedown Records and were signed to their imprint Strike First Records, releasing a debut ep later that year. Following some lineup changes and growth as a band over the next two years, their full length album Dissimulation was released in the spring of 2011. A quick glance at their influences listed on their Facebook page provides a good understanding of where the sound on Alethia is coming from as they list everything from Opeth to BB King to Dark Tranquility to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Needless to say, they have a lot to draw from.

As if to let the listener know immediately what Alethia will be like, the album opens up with “Acceptance”, a song approaching 10 minutes in length. A quiet acoustic guitar and keyboard section open up the song, accompanied by a somewhat complex drum beat that eventually smooths out before the metal guitars join in close to the 2 minute mark. Finally around the 3 minute mark there is a somewhat abrupt transition and the standard growled metal vocals kick in but that doesn’t last too long as there is a high-pitched clean chorus throughout the song as well. I found myself at several times throughout this song and the album, waiting for something to happen, as some of the orchestral, quieter interludes seem to drag on a bit too long and veer close to becoming monotonous. Of course, I listen to a lot of hardcore and punk so at times my attention span can be a bit short, but I do hold a dear place in my heart for symphonic metal like Grave Declaration and ambient black metal like Vials of Wrath, so I can look at things objectively from a solid foundation. My impression of this song was that they were trying to put as many novel elements into the one song as possible and as a result, ended up with a song that was a bit too long and lacked some cohesiveness.

The next track “Reformation” starts out as an exact opposite in terms of approach, going full-on metal with the call to “Light the torches” at the outset. Throughout “Reformation” though there are noticeable keyboards added to the sound but done so in a way that provides some depth and atmosphere to the song. Some of the transition parts even bring back memories of some Rainbow and Deep Purple instrumentals with the guitars and keyboards playing together in harmony. As one familiar with Hope for the Dying would expect, there also some good guitar solos thrown in as well, and they are done so in a way that fits within the song and adds to the overall impact, avoiding the tendency of just using them to spotlight guitar virtuosity. I also appreciate the lack of a clean chorus in the song as well as those often do not seem to fit well in the genre.

“Iniquitous” begins with a great intro solo and riff before halting abruptly, pausing, and then starting up again in earnest with vocals and some good metal riffs that pick up the pace gradually before veering in a syncopated-type rhythm. Again, keyboards play a good supporting role and the overall song structure in the beginning with its shifting around makes for some good listening, holding the attention of the listener. Unfortunately, the song transitions into a section about 2 minutes in length that again, has me scratching my head wondering where it is going and hoping it gets there soon. Unfortunately, the next song, “In Isolation” is another of the longer songs on the album at over 8 minutes and again, is one of those that started out slowly and orchestral in nature, this time from a Celtic base, but failed to gain my attention and hold it. Much like in “Acceptance”, some of the extended sections and orchestral/symphonic elements seem a bit forced.

“Serenity” is a short almost transition piece that sets up the epically long “Open Up the Sky”, the longest track on the album at over 12 minutes and perhaps fittingly, the last song on the album. Much like in “Acceptance”, which started the album, “Open Up the Sky” contains many softer orchestral/symphonic interludes that seem to go on much longer than they should. I can certainly appreciate the talent behind the album as the musicianship is top-notch for sure. My main issue is that the some of the songs seem unnecessarily long and overly complicated and that distracts from the overall listening experience. Many will and have compared this to Becoming the Archetype’s Celestial Completion album and there are a good number of similarities in that both bands stretched their boundaries, but BTA managed to retain a sense of restraint in their compositions which makes them more listenable and allows the elements to fit together more cohesively.

Rating: 6.5/10

1. Acceptance
2. Reformation
3. Iniquitous
4. In Isolation
5. Through a Nightmare, Darkly
6. The Lost
7. Visions
8. Serenity
9. Open the Sky

Band members:
Josh Ditto – Lead Vocals | Keys
James Houseman  – Guitar
Jack Daniels – Guitar
Brendan Hengle – Drums

Record Label: Facedown Records, March 2013

Weblinks: Facebook / Website / Twitter

Buy the album here:
First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Lyric video below for  ‘Iniquitous’

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