Heading over to their Last.fm account, the light hearted description ‘Australian for Deafheaven’ doesn’t exactly seem to serve as an appropriate designation for Brisbane based black metal troupe Hope Drone. Sure, the atypical approach towards standard genre fare is evident, and the lush, wide production on this 4 track release certainly draws parallels. Though it is likely more of a disservice to compare what they are trying to achieve here with the efforts of the highly divisive San-Francisco outfit.
Straying away from the saccharine post-whatever trending the genre today, Hope Drone’s self-titled achieves in marrying the existential, woe-filled black metal vertebrae with an interesting interpretation of what some elitists might refer to as a desecration of the genre - though there is no such desecration here.
Hope Drone typifies its approach towards convention with no emphasis upon innovation. Rather, this release focuses on further segmenting and stylising the, at times, flourishing Australian black metal scene. ‘Advent’ starts off interestingly enough; with the first two minutes being dedicated to a certain atmospheric feedback / tom beat fuse length. Come time of detonation, the styling is that of undoubtedly typical black metal convention – though there’s no doubt it works effectively. The cacophony of blast beats and apathy drenched dissonance gives a sense of home that is often lost from the new generation of black metal releases - you won’t doubt for a second what genre you are being subjected to here.
It seems that it’s these ruminations upon wider genre direction that Hope Drone has adapted into its compositional style, that serves to bridge the gap between either experimental/desecrated, or the more traditionally-styled genre temperament. This sentiment extends across nearly all fronts – such as the polished yet understatedly raw production, or the lengthy track timings that emit sense of writing direction often absent from other black metal acts.
And with the overall concentration upon genre unification and progress, it for the most part works near-perfectly. Though times do arise where certain creative choices make trade-offs on certain qualities that I feel could have been better explored. For example, the vocal delivery is particularly anguished and powerful – though often sacrifices lyrical clarity in favour of its more evidently robust textural / space filling percussive qualities. Though perhaps a conscious decision, I feel it is a shame as there are some really interesting, affecting lyrics that don’t really get the attention that they deserve as perfect complements.
Small grievances aside, it certainly achieves on all fronts, though is let down at times by its inability to truly surprise the listener, or by making what I feel to be unnecessary sacrifices in order to fulfil its wider atmospheric vision. However, this is not to write the record off completely – with the characteristic slow burn leading to some really powerful moments, such as closer "Ashes" or the penultimate motif of "Finite" really paying off for the listener in terms of emotional involvement. While not trying anything particularly new, ‘Hope Drone’ supplies a record of relevant placement within the wider scene that really succeeds at what it does. And with a new full-length seemingly on the way, there is only hope that this band will fully drop its ties to convention, so that we can all fully see what creative output emerges.