Album Review :
A Hope for Home - Realis

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Artist: A Hope for Home
Album: Realis
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Nightfall
  2. The Overman
  3. Withering Branches
  4. The Machine Stops
  5. No Light
  6. Post Tenebras Lux
  7. First Light of Dawn
  8. The Crippling Fear
  9. The Warmth of the Heavens
  10. Seasons
  11. Ascension
  12. After

It takes a lot to impress me in the post-hardcore genre nowadays and for good reason. It’s been oversaturated for years and labels are still signing these bands like it’s the hottest new fad. Yet they all roughly sound the same with generic breakdowns, crab-like postures, and a typical mix of clean vocals with screaming. Sure, the songs may be catchy sometimes but it’s hard to get into a song you’ve heard a thousand times before by better bands. Luckily we have A Hope for Home and their third release, first on Facedown after being promoted from Strike First, to save us. Their 2009 album, The Everlasting Man, saw the band experiment a bit with their sound as they dabbled in atmospheric interludes and a complete concept. Here the guitars are a main focus being crisp and organic, very much reminiscent of As Cities Burn’s first album, and the clean vocals never approach the ‘whine’ range (yes, that’s an official level now). Realis is like the light at the end of the dark tunnel the genre is in.

The opening track, ‘Nightfall’, immediately sets the mood for the first part of the album. A dreary acoustic guitar starts us off to create a very lonely feel and then the drums, keys, and other guitars jump in and build up to an explosive scream. The creative chords go a long way in driving the song forward as they come to the forefront in between Nathan’s screams of frustration. Most of the songs on this album naturally flow into the next and all of that frustration in the first song gives way to aggression in ‘The Overman’. The heavy riffs and frantic pace only let up at the chorus where the strong and crisp clean vocals enter. You can hear a light use of synths in the background that serve to give the song a larger than life feel as well. Then, whether it’s the addictive chords in ‘Withering Branches’ or the cold, metallic guitars in ‘The Machine Stops’, you are certain to be pulled into each song’s distinct trait.

Next you’re hit with an emotional hammer as the melancholy of ‘No Light’ strikes. Quiet piano notes loft ahead of somber guitar distortion and a foreboding drum beat adds to the dreary atmosphere. The vocalist then chimes in softly as he sings, “There’s no way out. No light, no hope. Put out the fire, it burned so bright. No truth, no hope.”. It’s easily the best song on the album because it’s as hauntingly beautiful as it is awe inspiring. The song continually builds to the ultimate climax of screaming as all the instruments join together in unison. It is, perhaps, the perfect example of what sets a band like A Hope for Home apart from their contemporaries.

From here it appears the album starts the uphill climb out of despair. ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, as it turns out, is Latin for “Light after darkness” and it’s certainly a fitting name. The song reflects as much considering the brooding nature of the previous track. It’s very forward and upbeat, but not without aggression. At points it sounds like the screamer is raging a battle and trying to press forth through some sort of opposing force. The droning guitars add to that notion before making way to some fantastic, peaceful chords at the end. The next few songs continue the climb upwards with swirling guitars, soaring vocals, and a newfound boldness. Don’t worry that the edge is lost though. These songs are every bit as heavy and powerful as the first half.

Before one were to first listen to the album it would be helpful to know that there’s a concept behind it. The band has stated that the first half is meant to be “dark, hopeless, and bleak” while being centered around the Nietzsche quote “God is dead”. The second half then shows a man “building his beliefs from the ground up”. The concept is a bold task and fortunately A Hope for Home’s execution of it was flawless. Some may worry that the album will be too dark and depressing, especially the first half, but you can rest easy in knowing it’s never overbearing. The first half of songs are actually my favorite on the album since A Hope for Home nailed the atmosphere and pull you into the setting so easily. Then by the time the brilliant build up in ‘Ascension’ and the addictive riff in ‘After’ come through you’ve been fully pulled out of the muck and mire and into hope.

Overall: Realis is one of the most beautiful and intricately woven post-hardcore releases you’ll ever hear. The somber melancholy of the first half of the album perfectly matches the theme, and the stirring atmosphere in the latter half resembles one’s rise from the ashes in finding faith and hope. After the last haunting piano notes are played to close the album you’ll be left in awe at what you just heard. This is easily a classic for the genre and the year. The potential A Hope for Home shows leaves me giddy for the next release and if I wouldn’t be enjoying this one for the next few months it couldn’t come soon enough.

Gems of this album are: ‘The Overman’, ‘No Light’, ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, ‘Ascension’, ‘After’

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