Reviewing Hope Lane Is A Dead End was definitely an experience I was not banking on. When I started listening to their new EP, Illuminate, and heard the standard no-frills metalcore sound everyone’s come to expect from the underground, my expectations for the album dropped to zero. However, the more and more I’ve listened to this disc, the more I have to admit that this is some of the best material the genre has seen in quite some time.
In fact, Hope Lane Is A Dead End is a prime example of why I still try to have hope for metalcore. Hailing from Woburn, Massachusetts, this five-piece doesn’t attempt to be overly melodic or incredibly technical, yet they manage to write solid riff after solid riff and hold the listener’s interest with varied song structure. “Taking Flight” was a great choice for an opener, as it showcases all of the strongest elements that Illuminate has in store for you: amazing drumming (complete with perfect tempo changes), prog-esque fills, a good ratio of screaming and clean vocals (and by good, I mean way more screaming), and simple breakdowns that don’t wreak of brutality.
The vocals are slightly screamo, but not enough to push the band into that genre. I was pretty happy about this too, because while the clean singing isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard, it’s not exactly the best either. Compared to the rugged monotone screams, the singing is weak and feels like it gets slightly washed out in the mix. This isn’t to say it’s a complete failure, but he certainly doesn’t sing like a bird. The guitars are a good mix of melody and math, and they have their fair share of show-off tech moments, but the album doesn’t center around any of these things. In the end, the songs are so well varied that it’s pretty clear that Hope Lane Is A Dead End has a jack-of-all-trades mentality.
The drums are definitely the stand-out instrument of Illuminate, however. The tempo changes are great, and the different styles these guys touch upon would be lost without a talented man behind the skins. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, “Quotients” contains a flawlessly executed hang-ten surf jam that gets incorporated into the proceeding breakdown, “1984” opens as a punk song (and has one of the best tempo changes, turning a verse into a very tasty breakdown), and “Up To Our Necks” contains 9 seconds of prog-inspired bass soloing. The most amazing part of all of this is that Hope Lane Is A Dead End does not sound like they’re all over the place. Each part feels as if it was expertly selected and allocated. Nothing compares to “Ten Times Platinum” however, which is by far the heaviest song on the album (as well as my personal favorite), and also contains the best clean singing of all six tracks.
Once again, a band that I desperately tried to hate at first has blown my shorts off. It’s definitely not the splitting image of musical perfection, but it’s a fun ride fueled by talented musicianship. If you are a fan of Poison The Well, From Autumn To Ashes, or Evergreen Terrace, then Hope Lane Is A Dead End should be on your radar.
01. Taking Flight
02. Up To Our Necks
03. Botched Blueprints
06. Ten Times Platinum