Hope Lane Is a Dead End – Illuminate

Hope Lane Is a Dead End - Illuminate

Hope Lane Is a Dead End - Illuminate

Illuminate, the debut from Hope Lane Is a Dead End, is a solid album in the struggling genre of metalcore. This isn’t a perfect album, but the band skillfully threads together a variety of disparate riffs–a sign of good metal songwriting.

Like indie rock fans, hardcore enthusiasts are a discriminating bunch. In that subculture, it’s hard to get popular, but staying popular is harder. The hardcore genre of metalcore peaked more than 7 years ago. Since then, new metalcore albums have drawn sneers from armies of black-shirted youths. Hope Lane Is a Dead End’s debut won’t turn that ship around, but its variety of attacks should turn a few heads.

This 5 piece dices up mathy riffs and syncopated rhythms with chugging breakdowns and follows those with riffs ranging from hard rock to thrash. After some early missteps, the bass turns in a strong performance and the drums roll mercilessly through the music–sometimes to a fault. The guitar distortion will meet mixed reviews; I heard too much treble and not enough of the bark and bite you can get from the right mix of highs and lows. But these 6-strings are technically proficient most of the time. Vocals come in your standard barks and yells with a few gang shouts and,of course, there is the negligible, occasional clean vocal you expect from metalcore.

The band calls Illuminate an album, but the 6 song collection seems more like an EP. These are all fully realized tracks with no intros or filler. First track “Taking Flight” won’t impress many. The layered vocals and heavy emoting sound uninspired. The track peaks with some quick Master of Puppets-era riffs, but these are often cut short by generic breakdowns. “Up to Our Necks” is a drum showcase accompanied by a strong bass performance. Metal is given to machine-like execution, and Hope Lane Is a Dead End is no different. But the band would do well to let out a few more moments of musical fury and abandon in order to connect with people emotionally.

The album gets better with “Botched Blueprints”. Chords become staccato chunks and guitars squeel between riffs. The anger and aggression translates. The band isn’t doing anything new, but they are doing it well. “Quotients” may be the album highlight. After kicking off with a spinning riff reminiscient of very early Megadeth, the music trades punches through a breakdown. Just after the 1 minute mark, the song drops into a grinding, pleasing groove. After abruptly picking up the pace, the guitars seize the momentum and engage with the bass guitar in a surf-inspired riff not unlike the old Adam West Batman TV theme, with complementary, quick-stepping, mid-range guitar and bass figures. Both entertaining and well-done.

Unfortunately, some good rock riffs get eclipsed by rapid fire bass drum and snare hits in “1984”. This is at least one time when the drums should have relaxed. From start to finish, the vocals run steady, resting only for a few precious moments. The songwriting thrives here as riffs switch off. Closing track “Ten Times Platinum” features some sinister bass work, making the first minute of this song solid. Next comes some effective hard rock riffs. But these end too soon as another generic breakdown takes over. From there, the song takes a wrong turn and goes through one of the genre’s biggest flaws–a way off-key clean vocal over predictable sequences of ringing chords and flighty drums.

Illuminate is a mostly average metalcore album. Only the songwriting stands out. Not every transition here is flawless, but a lot them are. And that allows the band to offer enough variety to keep fans interested.