Hope For The Dying
05. Imminent War
06. Perpetual Ruin
07. The Awakening
08. The Awakening: Dissimulation
09. The Awakening: The Veil, Lifted
10. Vile Reflections
For those who aren’t familiar with them, Hope for the Dying (also referred to as HFTD) is an American christian metal band from Jonesboro, Illinois. Their brand of metalcore is extremely unique, taking the best of August Burns Red, The Human Abstract, etc. and expressing it with the addition of classical orchestrations. However, as straightforward as I have made their sound, there is still numerous other disparate influences that are hard to pinpoint, making their sound definitive. Dissimulation is HFTD’s second record and debut under Facedown Records.
Before I even begin to talk about this record, it should be known that this record must be tackled in its entirety if you are listening to it for the first time. This record flows from track to track seamlessly, and even flows from the end of the album to the beginning of the album, which is an awesome touch. Multiple listens are also a must, since it’s extremely nuanced, which shows the care HFTD put into Dissimulation.
The album opens with one of the biggest highlights of this record: orchestrations. The arrangements are a feature point of this record, and single-handedly make the record a much more dense, emotional experience. Strings, choir, horns, and percussion are all included, and the first track perfectly showcases it. Even though the orchestrations were created from a synth, it feels remarkably authentic. I could listen to the first minute and half for hours, and just when you think that it can’t get more epic, the band comes in. Coming in with a breakdown-esque rhythm that matches the backing orchestra, it does indeed get more epic. And then the sweeps come in, matching the chord progression (for this part, think the outro to The Human Abstract’s “Mea Culpa“).
Then it leads uninterrupted into “Vacillation“, further showcasing the classical influence by showing an pure-classically inspired guitar motif. The drums kick in shortly after to pound sixteenth-note triplets bass drum into your skull, and it matches the motif the guitar plays. You are then greeted by vocalist/keyboardist Josh Ditto, who has a relatively unique voice and pristine clarification and articulation, making the lyrics understandable. The lyrics are firmly routed in the Christian faith, but they aren’t preachy, and add a sense of inspiration to the music, especially in the later tracks, when clean singing takes a major role in the music. The de-facto chorus in “Vacillation” is written in 5/4, which shows the progressive element in HFTD’s music. Time signature changes are in abundance on this record, but are well-executed, and are not thrown in for the sole purpose of complexity.
The guitar playing, put in the most blunt of ways, is amazing. Jack Daniels and James Houseman’s playing is extremely nuanced, excels theoretically, and arranges their parts perfectly, throwing in the clean guitar section often to add variety and keeps listeners interested. Every note feels as if it should be there. There is even a nice blues/noodling guitar section in one of the songs. Even for a 54-minute record, it feels as if everything was placed perfectly. No filler, man; feels good. The drums are commendable as well, as Brendan Hengle’s drums perfectly match the atmosphere that the music presents. Bass, however, is often not heard except in the bass solo in “The Awakening: Dissimulation“. I wish it was higher in the mix, but they currently do not have a bassist according to their official facebook page, which may account for it, as they were without a bassist while they were in the recording studio, which most likely means it was covered by a guitarist. While it doesn’t excuse the low level of the bass, it is a decent explanation if it is true.
Production-wise, the record sounds HUGE. In terms of volume and balance, both the orchestration and the band take the lead when needed. There are no volume drops or clipping. The guitar tones are perfect, and the vocals are well balanced with the band. The drums are well-balanced, though I sometimes wished that the cymbals were brought up much higher in the mix, as they sound severely drowned at times. My only real issue with this album (and this is strictly nit-picking) is that I wonder where this album would be without the orchestrations. Sure, there are moments where there are no backing group, and it’s still really good, above average metalcore, but it doesn’t astound me like when the music and orchestrations mesh.
Overall, this record completely astounded me. This record shows what metalcore and progressive music can do if put together with care and patience. This record will definitely be in the running for the top releases of the year, even with all the amazing releases so far. It’s a must own for progressive metal fans, and all music fans in general should give this record an honest spin.
Hope For the Dying’s Dissimulation gets