Artist: Hope For the Dying
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Genre: Progressive Metal/ Folk Metal
Picture this, if you will: You are a knight, completely covered from head to toe in shining steel armor, readying your sword as the morning sun peeks over a nearby hill. With the rising light you see a huge wave of enemy soldiers on horseback crashing down towards you, shouting piercing battle cries. Despite this, you feel a strange surge of power and courage coursing through your veins. You look fearlessly upon the oncoming horde and without hesitation, you raise your blade and charge into battle. This is how I felt within the first minute of listening to Legacy, the third album from progressive metal quartet, Hope For the Dying.
Appropriately enough, the band describes themselves as the progressive death metal soundtrack to Braveheart, and this new album encapsulates this to near perfection. Like their previous efforts, there are many symphonic elements weaved together with the ongoing death metal brutality, but I feel that this album best demonstrates the mastery of their craft. The ebb and flow between absolutely crushing metal and beautiful, if not majestic, symphonic interludes in this hour-long musical epic is intoxicating and draws the listener in without getting too same-y or overwhelming.
Throughout the entire album the instrumentation is tight and indeed technical. Unlike other bands in the sub-genre, this album doesn’t emphasize blistering speed, but instead focuses on a slower and more precise sound, which works fantastically. Don’t get me wrong, though, in standout tracks such as “Nemesis” or “Wretched Curse”, guitarists James Houseman and Jack Daniels (not joking, by the way, that’s his actual name) showcase their insane skill with sweeping solos and face-melting riffs, followed by welcome, breakdown-esque dips into “core” territory that complement the dynamics of the album. Percussionist Brendan Hengle delivers a solid performance as well, both furiously driving a sense of urgency and emphasizing key shifts in the slower points of the album.
The symphonic elements of Legacy is the defining aspect of the medieval sound Hope for the Dying sought to achieve, and they effectively transport the listener to an alternate time and tangible atmosphere of swords and sorcery. The crisp sound of a triumphant trumpet, along with the trills of violins accentuate Legacy’s faster and heavier moments, whereas foreboding cellos and other Eastern-inspired sections give an air of mystery and dread in the well-paced intermissions.
Initially, some fans and critics were skeptical that Josh Ditto’s mid to high range vocals would work with an album that aimed to meld an American death metal sound with that of European folk metal, but I personally don’t think that these claims have any sort of base. His growls and screams are well-timed and executed, and do not fade into the background of the other instruments nor drown them out. Lyrically, the album takes the medieval theme and runs with it, with many of the tracks urging the listener to ready themselves for battle mainly against the many challenges and trials that life itself has for us. Although I feel that some of the lyrics are a bit generic, the fact that they, along with the music, already made me feel like I was taking part in the Lord of the Rings saga, I was shamelessly echoing back the rallying cries as I blasted this album down my street.
In an admittedly over-saturated market, Legacy carves its own place as an unquestionable standout among countless other records in early 2016, and leaves the bar set high for subsequent releases to come this year. A full hour of music may seem daunting for some listeners, but with the way that Legacy immersed me into its medieval-inspired and brutal, yet beautiful sound, I was actually surprised when I finished my first listen-through, and immediately scrambled for the repeat button. I would highly recommend this album to those who are fans of progressive death metal or symphonic metal, yet I believe it appeals to a much wider audience if given the chance. Legacy is an incredible and polished effort; it is brimming with talent and ultimately demonstrating the countless capabilities of what modern metal music can achieve, and it certainly should not go ignored.
Check out “Narcissus” from Legacy:
For fans of: Sylosis, Becoming the Archetype, Opeth, Amon Amarth.
by: Chad Brown