Innocuously-named High Hopes are a metalcore group hailing from Reading, home of course to the legendary rock festival of “& Leeds” fame. The band’s newest album “Sights And Sounds” is due for release February 5th via their new label Victory Records, and is filled with a grungy energy which pays testament to their music-centric hometown. High Hopes seem distinct in that the metal components of their sound seems to be for the most part in the vocals, which are generally indistinctly howled throughout the album, while the melodies of their songs are by contrast jarringly defined and tuneful. The music is heavy, but because of its composition, as opposed to as a result of the deliberate down-tuning of guitars.
High Hopes deem “Sights And Sounds” their most mature album yet, and it certainly seems that way in that it is meticulously crafted and presented from start to finish. The album has a flair for the dramatic, opening with a piece entitled “Pale Blue Dot” which comprises a noticeably English spoken voice echoed over elongated crunchy guitar chords. The piece is very short and very dramatic, mediating essentially on how small the earth is, presumably in an effort to get the listener questioning their own importance in the grand scheme of things. Following this ominous and harrowing introduction, the album kicks off with its ‘core’ tracks which in the main bear the typical hallmarks of metalcore; raw vocals which sound much the same from song to song, heavy riffs, musical breakdowns etc.
“Defender” encapsulates the album’s devoted metalcore representation in its frenzied guitar, fast drumming, scream-singing and dirty instrumentation. There are welcome and well-executed variations speckled throughout “Sights And Sounds”, though: “Nostalgic Thoughts” sounds markedly slower than most other songs on the album, with a languorous opening, use of keyboards, and a generally melancholy melody. Similarly, “The Greater Plan” pairs its notably poignant chorus with standard metalcore vocals interspersed and sometimes combined with clear singing, to great and strangely moving effect.
“Sights And Sounds” finishes as it began, with a dramatic, reaching piece of music. The album closes on its titular song, which contains long echoed chords and almost overwhelming crashing instrumental interludes, and ends with eerie piano chords which are totally out of place with everything else in the album and yet somehow work. It’s a mastercrafted example of the best that the metalcore genre has to offer, showing their prowess in their field with a well-presented riff-fest of an album containing carefully calculated and executed deviations from the norm. It’s definitely one to watch out for, even – or perhaps especially – for those who wouldn’t normally call themselves metal fans.
– Heather Billington
Venue: Sights and Sounds
Support Band: Victory Records