Auburn is a tranquil town in upstate New York sitting about fifteen minutes outside of the city of Syracuse. You may not be a geography major, but this is relevant. Why, you ask? Because Auburn is the same town that spawned metal masters Manowar and Syracuse is the city that gave birth to hardcore legends Earth Crisis. It is likely that the members of If Hope Dies took influence from both of these influential acts during their youthful days. And the band's third full-length, Life in Ruin, is a punishing mix of metal and hardcore that is going to thrust them to the forefront of the "New Wave of American Heavy Metal."
Four years back I came across If Hope Dies at a fest in Buffalo. I was completely unfamiliar with them, but that didn't stop me from enjoying their blistering performance. They outperformed every band on that bill, a bill that included Prayer for Cleansing, Every Time I Die, and Most Precious Blood. Sure they were still a little rough around the edges, but hey, what do you expect from a local metal band. Today, with two solid full-lengths under their belts, If Hope Dies is a well-oiled machine destroying town after town with some of the best metal songs I've heard in a long ass time.
The first thing that hits you about Life in Ruin is the guitar work of Thad Jackson and Brian Ward. These guys can shred with the best of them. Their dueling attack is spot on with obvious influence from the European realm of thrash. There are also some impressive breakdowns, not to mention the killer solos, placed throughout the album. Also of note is the impeccable rhythm section of Gary Mann on bass and Brandon Wakeham on drums. Often their positions are ignored because metal is a guitar-driven genre, but I suggest you pay attention to their tightness. When it's all thrown into a cauldron, the resulting sound is not unlike the early works of Shadows Fall or Caliban: full of metal flair.
Not to be outdone by the music is Alan French's lyrical commentary on society. On "Anthem for the Unemployable" French serves up these lines "Your free time is no longer free / spend each moment trying to make ends meet / this world moves too fast to stay ahead / forever falling behind until we're dead / our lives are worth more than just mere numbersÃ¢â¬Â¦" The rest of the album is filled with these socially and politically charged attacks.
2006 is going to be a spectacular year for If Hope Dies. With this album in their corner, you're going to be seeing their name plastered all over. So if you love to headbang and/or play the air-guitar, this record is essential to your collection.
8.0 / 10
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