Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Hope For Home - "The Everlasting Man"

A few years ago I attended a "hardcore" show here in San Diego to catch up with some old friends. Since it was a show full of heavy bands I thought I would do my part and choose an outfit that would help me blend in, or at least help me feel a little younger. No, I didn't wear a Bane t-shirt, camo shorts, and New Balance sneakers (my days of being a "pit-boss" never really came to fruition), but I did opt for an old Snapcase shirt...which surprisingly garnered more attention than I had hoped for. I had 3 people, who were easily under the age of 18, ask me if "Snapcase" was a new clothing company. It was a reminder to me that a) I am an old man, and 2) my frame of reference for hardcore sits comfortably in the decade of the 90's. That's not a bad thing seeing as though some of the greatest records of the genre were released during that time: Records by Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Strife, Shai Hulud, Strongarm, and Refused to name a few. I'm pretty far removed from being "up" on what's happening in the scene, and it's rare that new hardcore bands actually catch my attention. Most of it sounds's style over over passion. Maybe I'm making a gross generalization, but in my opinion I think most of the "hardcore" coming out these days is laughable at best. Very few hardcore bands get me excited (read: I'm underwhelmed), and I end up just comparing the listening experience to the excitement I felt hearing Shai Hulud for the first time (1997). "The Everlasting Man," by A Hope For Home, rekindled that excitement for me.

I think it's quite a task to not only make interesting music, but to also write an entire record based on the work of G.K. Chesteron. What this album has is both lyrical depth, and musical muscle. You won't find tough-guy posturing, and you won't be bored to death by the rehashing of every riff off the "Fire Storm" EP. "The Everlasting Man" reminds me of the intricate song structures of Strongarm, mixed with the atmospherics of Isis, and the passion of Overcome. All great bands...but that is my reference point for their over-all sound. The music switches from massive guitars and gut wrenching screams, to melodic guitar leads and passionate singing. Sure, the scream/sing thing has been beaten to death but AHFH really have a fresh take on the idea. Songs like "Absolution: Of Flight and Failure", and "Masada: The Spiral Staircase" move seamlessly between massive chunks of distortion and melody, with the juxtaposition of singing and screaming actually feeling like it wasn't an afterthought. The songs move through different tempos while still managing to sound like actual "songs" instead of disjointed parts thrown together to increase their "prog-metal" cred. While the music puts a fresh spin on what "hardcore" can be, the lyrics, based on "The Everlasting Man" by Chesterton, showcase the constant struggle of humankind to make sense of the world around them. Countless bands have tried, and failed, to thematically tie in lyrics with a story or novel, but AHFH actually do it, and sound sincere. Channeling the ideas of someone else and making them your own, with real emotions behind them, can be a difficult journey, but it's one that is perfectly navigated on this record. "The Everlasting Man" is a reminder that great "hardcore" not only pummels the listener with huge riffs, but strikes an emotional chord as well. A Hope for Home has achieved both of these things while putting their own signature on a genre sadly in need of resuscitation.

Buy this record...thank me later.

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