It’s been a long four years since the sophomore release from Australian post-black metal outfit Hope Drone. Cloak of Ash, released July 2015 through Relapse Records, was the group’s shot at a breakout, and it was certainly a devastating and compelling release, earning a four-out-of-five score from us back when we gave out scores. Cloak of Ash was a remarkable record, but if anything, it may have been too familiar with the genre’s staples, leaning heavily on a formula of blast-and-trem melodies being the primary mode of “heavy”, carrying 10+ minute songs through to their conclusions, however crushing they may be.
Hope Drone aren’t even necessarily meat-and-potatoes atmospheric black metal, either. A healthy dose of sludge influence creeping in giving shades of Isis and Neurosis between the storming rush of blackened angst. Cloak of Ash was also incredibly ambitious, opening with a 20 minute track of devastating post-metal that tested and rewarded patience. The name Hope Drone may signify the band’s hazy and melodic wall-of-sound approach to songwriting, and on that front, the band succeeds at delivering on that promise.
But Hope Drone have been gone for a long time, and have used that time to develop their sound further for their third recording, Void Lustre. This time partnering with Silent Pendulum Recordings, Hope Drone offer what is somehow an even more dynamic and emotionally heavy listening experience that at times leans further into post-metal. This creates a record that is often breathtaking in its emotional weight of cosmically-inclined black metal and introspective atmosphere.
For starters, opener “Being Into Nothingness” hits like the first deep breaths in the waning of a panic attack, a dim light breaking through the surrounding dread. The record that follows is a wash of ethereal eruptions broken by passages of pensive and often propulsive soundscapes. “Forged by the Tide” is a subdued take on this formula, and as the shortest track on Void Lustre, acts as a suggestion of the band’s broader scope with a touch more fury. Early on in the record, it becomes clear that the Hope Drone sound has been imbued with a more palpable Isis sound, particularly sold in the Aaron Turner-like roars.
“In Floods and Depths” acts as the record’s centerpiece and exhibits the band’s understated sentimentality as somber leads weave through the hissing guitars. “This Body Will Be Ash” pushes and pulls like the wake, lashing out and withdrawing before collapsing into a dirging riff that swells into a mass of wailing guitars. Closing 17-minute epic “In Shining Light” expertly dips into Earth-like tempos and minimalistic atmosphere, wallowing in the darkness for a spell before the record’s climactic finale.
The genre familiarity still exists, but never becomes an issue. Hope Drone’s strengths are in the summoning of deeply expressive chord progressions that flourish in such a propulsive and cacophonous environment. In that regard, Void Lustre may be a more apt description of the band’s aesthetic than Hope Drone; bleak, but radiant and somewhat hopeful and deeply resonant.
Void Lustre is out August 30th through Silent Pendulum. Pre-orders are available through Bandcamp.