This High Hopes article was written by Anton Sanatov, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Samantha Melrose.
It is fair to say that metal as a genre, along with its subsidiaries, is having a much-awaited renaissance in this current decade of ours. And as per any epochal influx of eager talent, the ever-gushing fountain saturates the market pool, making it ever so complicated for the odd band to distinguish itself in the modern metal scene. And although, upon your first encounter with High Hopes, you may not identify them as mavericks in that quest for contemporary recognition, they nonetheless have their sights set on greater lands.
A lot of present-day metal acts rely on soaking their work in baths of blackened sorrow and regurgitating the finished product at the listener in the most aggressive manner possible. Not to suggest that the aforementioned approach is an inferior artistic meditation, but it has become quite a rarity to pick-up a record that not only-makes you want to “tear shit up”, but do it with a positive outlook on life. Many heavy albums have the ability to rattle your cage, but not a lot of them also have the touch to make your skin shiver, and ‘Sight & Sounds’ sets itself apart by refusing to stare into the abyss, and instead gazes across a plain of optimism.
By all means, this is not a tranquil record; tracks like ‘Revelation’, ‘The Greater Plan’ and ‘MLK’ will not only show you the brighter side of things but also leave a footprint on your hind as they get you over there. However, that vexation is heartfelt and tuneful, thus providing the band’s profuse virility with an honest melodic contour. The transitions between storms of thundering riffs and choruses of fluid chordal themes is so smooth and unforced, the songs feel like crashing ocean waves, rising high and foaming at the apex before shattering in emotional bursts against the shores.
Among this finely crafted tour de force there is only one area of concern that is to be briefly addressed. The vocal gut punches of, whilst clearly coming from deep within, often appear to be missing a certain fervour of dedication, which ends up bringing the emotional edge down before it reaches the altitudes of the instrumental support. Even though the vocal effort sounds gallantly raw, there are unfortunately moments when that unrefined nature looses its feral quality and appears somewhat cumbersome in its approach, thus becoming a burden to the top-notch musicianship.
Beyond that the production is crisp and sounds absolutely impeccable. The songs create a very scenic blend of melody and core-shattering energy, sounding like finely tuned machines and remaining pleasantly textured without becoming too layered and garish. This makes the record play like a starry eyed night with flares of ignited oil-rigs scattered across the midnight landscape; viciously picturesque and rhythmically dynamic. And even the more straightforward “hardcore” offerings like ‘The Callout’ and ‘Defender’, though certainly not to be considered easy listening, are effortlessly absorbed, much owing to their superb structures and sophisticated grooves.
One of the standout moments of the album is hidden in its final offering – the title track. The culmination is marked by a fine metallic symphony of savage honesty, a catharsis which had been brewing under the surface of the album, meditating in the cracks of the mellow interludes and finally breaking its way through to ignite the skies and give closure to the composition, daring you to repeat the journey, which many most certainly will.
‘Sights & Sounds’ is a magnificent record, and if you enjoy the emotive purging of Alexisonfire mixed in with intergalactic infusions of the Deftones and ground-pounding bravado of While She Sleeps, then this is the trip for you. High Hopes have created a beautiful epic of tragedy and redemption, and at only their sophomore effort, possess a maturity that many bands spend their entire catalogues trying achieve.