July 10, 2018 Hopesfall – Arbiter (Album Review)
It has been over a decade since we last heard from Melodic Hardcore giants Hopesfall, so it is with great fanfare that they return, this Friday, July 13, 2018, with Arbiter, thanks to Graphic Nature/Equal Vision Records.
For those not in the know, Hopesfall formed in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998, and originally dubbed themselves Christian Hardcore. Their 1999 debut, The Frailty of Words, established the band on the scene, and ultimately led to three additional releases over the next eight years, including 2002’s The Satellite Years and 2007’s Magnetic North. Throughout the years, a myriad of line-up changes would also lead to a shift from their former Christian tag-line. Ultimately, the band would dissolve in 2008, leaving only Vocalist Jay Forrest at the helm, before 2011 brought a short, semi-reunion of sorts. Thankfully for fans, by 2016, the band had reformed with a slightly altered line-up and news that new material was on its way.
Poised to pick up where they left off those eleven years ago, Hopesfall – Vocalist Forrest, Guitarists Joshua Brigham and Dustin Nadler, Bassist Chad Waldrup, and Drummer Adam Morgan – are now ready to return with their fifth full-length studio offering, Arbiter. Produced by long-time collaborator Mike Watts (Glassjaw, Dillinger Escape Plan), the 10-track album crosses boundaries, melding Melodic Hardcore and Post-Hardcore stylings, intelligently poetic, insightful lyrics, and a sound that is fully Hopesfall – while still calling to mind the likes of both Cursive and Hum.
Arbiter opens to the delicate underproduction of “Faint Object Camera,” where the verse’s muddy tones harken back to the 1990s. Balancing against bending, twisting guitars and more melodic choruses, this is a drowsy drift through positive melancholia, searching for answers that never come. They further embrace their inner-Emo for “H.A. Wallace Space Academy,” a killer exploration of chugging guitars and gritty vocal epithets that question freedom and the sentimental.
They lean more toward the melodic on “Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” fraught with some truly killer bass lines, and continue this trend with “C.S. Lucky-One,” where glittering guitars weave around a wall of sound to create something melodically meandering. The spacey quest of “I Catapult” is a lackadaisical rocker that ultimately moves into a sound that feels reminiscent of Hum’s “Stars,” which is never a bad thing. Guess we’ve all missed that train to mars, eh?
This overall vibe continues into “Tunguska,” an exceptionally poetic exercise in layering sounds to create an amalgamated, melodic noise. Meanwhile, the under two-minute “Aphelion” serves as a kind of bridge into “Drowning Potential,” where they shift back to heavier, driving guitars and gritty vocals that soar alongside these rougher sonics.
Next, Hopesfall create another multi-layered wall of sound for gritty rocker “To Bloom,” where guitar carries the bulk of the melody alongside muddied vocals. At over six-minutes in-length, “Indignation and the Rise of the Arbiter” is an epic to end the collection upon. Here, punctuated beats create the backbone for the meandering guitars and emotional vocals, which explore perspective.
Eleven years may have passed since we journeyed to the Magnetic North with Hopesfall, but Arbiter proudly carries the flag for the band’s signature sound. Oft muddy tones, gritty vocals, and always thoughtful lyrics anchor a collection that is reminiscent of a better time, sonically speaking, and while heavily steeped in the traditions of Melodic Hardcore, something much more. With Arbiter, they pen a collection that rattles and hums through a series of peaks and valleys, ultimately offering a thoughtful transmission that is exactly what fans have been tuned into and craving for years. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Hopesfall’s Arbiter 4 of 5 stars.