Hope For the Dying’s debut full-length, Dissimulation, blew me away. From start to finish, it was an album that effectively crossed multiple genres and an era of metal with strings, and while that may seem a bit overwhelming, the record was anything but. It seemed as if the band had found a solid sound for themselves – one that would push them forward and allow for a little bit of growth along the way. With the follow-up to one of my favorite records of 2011, Hope For the Dying proves that they still are one of the most technically sound metal acts today, even if their newest set of songs are not as memorable, or as potent, as their debut.
The most obvious difference between Dissimulation and Aletheia is that there are fewer songs on Aletheia, and the songs are more drawn out. Not only do these longer tracks allow the band to fully develop ideas and lyrical themes, but they also give them a chance to flaunt their technical prowess and show off their excellent music writing skills. The band takes full advantage of their talents on the nine tracks on this record, also providing a dense amount of variety to the listener – both within the songs and as songs in general compared to others.
The first song on the record, “Acceptance,” is a bruiser. Its lengthy intro is powered by succulent acoustic guitars and strings, before blasting into the group’s trademark meshing of progressive, classical-influenced metal and metalcore. Although the track is laboriously tough, it’s also tough in its immense sturdiness. The next two songs are much more compressed than “Acceptance,” but, unlike on their debut, the strings take almost a full backseat to the heavy guitars and terrifyingly fast double bass drums. In these tracks, not only does the instrumentation shine, but Josh Ditto’s screams do as well. While he’s not one of the most unique vocalists in metal, his screams are solid, and they only strengthen the vast, appealing, and immersive musical handiwork of guitarists James Houseman and Jack Daniels.
Although, at times, the songs on Aletheia fail to stand out individually, “Through a Nightmare, Darkly” is a perfect example of the kind of variety Hope For the Dying is attempting to provide listeners with. The track is an instrumental trance directed by acoustic guitar riffs similar to those seen in the opener. Electric guitars pop in here and there, keeping the song from getting repetitive. The following song, “The Lost,” is arguably the heaviest track on the album, and the guitars and drums show an insane amount of musical expertise. Lyrically, “Open Up the Sky” brings back some of the epicness of Dissimulation. For the most part, Aletheia’s spiritual themes are reserved, yet uplifting, but the speaker’s surrender to God in the closer bolsters the band’s passion for the Lord. In its most accurate form, the track is a one-two punch of music and lyrics, and it’s a more-than-satisfying end to an excellent metal album.
While Hope For the Dying’s approach on Aletheia differs very little from their debut, the progression into longer, more depthful songs is a great move for fans of progressive and European metal. However, fans of metalcore and hardcore may have a harder time with this record. I know the band was going for a more technically profound album, but Dissimulation’s shorter, more harmonic tracks and overall intrepidness made for a more memorable whole. That being said, I’m just being nit-picky at this point. Though it’s far from a classic, Aletheia is an example-setter for other current metal bands on how to do metal right. As a whole, this record is another extraordinary effort from one of the best rising names in metal, and two albums in, Hope For the Dying has made quite the impression.