North Carolinan quartet Hopesfall caused a bit of a stir in hardcore circles when they released their debut full-length album, The Satellite Years, back in 2002. Mixing the aggression of Glassjaw with the melodic bent of Further Seems Forever, this was a group who seemed to be able to cross the divide between heavy and airy in a simple swoop of its ethereal musical wings.
In this context, A Types initially comes as a disappointment nearly as tragic as the musical mood that Hopesfall seemingly endeavour to portray. Gone is the hardcore madness shattering into shards of melodic glass, gone are the unorthodox song structures and gone is the sense of dreamy wonder, all replaced by a more conventional, if slightly oblique, take on guitar-led alternative rock. It’s still emotional, it’s still melodic but it certainly isn’t hardcore.
The good news is that upon repeated listens, A Types does begin to reveal some morsels of delight, provided you can get past the surprisingly accessible outer coating already discussed and an air of faux intellectualism in the lyrics (“In a season of collapsed lungs, there’s a dark holiday and we are following straight lines to death” being just one impenetrable example).
The likes of It Happens and Icarus are above average chunks of American indie rock, with guitar riffs that aren’t fey but do rock moderately, and which boast highly memorable choruses.
Meanwhile on standout track – the very anthemic Breathe From Coma – vocalist Jay Forrest comes over all Anthony Kiedis. In fact, with the hi-hat work and intricate guitar lines, this could easily be the Red Hot Chili Peppers, except that it’s better than most of what the once able funk rockers have produced in the last few years.
Thankfully, Hopesfall do chuck in a few scraps for those who like the more fractious things in life. Start And Pause has the odd hardcore yelp and muscular guitar riff, as well as another big, expansive chorus, while Champion Beyond Blessing throws in a heavy section that for a fleeting moment borders on the metal.
Per Sempre Marciamo is a strong way to finish, with whispered verses counterpointed by intense, claustrophobic choruses. In many ways it speaks as a précis for the album as a whole – complex, emotive, melodic, but missing the je ne sais quoi that turns the reasonably good into something more entrancing. A Types gets a “B”-type grade from this reviewer…