Ever since The Color Morale announced the title of their third full-length back in summer 2012, kids all over the world have been getting ‘know hope’ tattoos and sending pictures of them to the band, who then display the artwork on their own Facebook page (the band also ended up using hundreds of these pictures to create a huge collage on the inside of the CD’s lyric booklet). Since the start, they have wanted everyone to know that Know Hope is not just music, or a product, or some gimmick for the band or record label to make money off of – it is a movement.
Vocalist Garret Rapp spilled out his very personal struggles onto this record with hopes that others could learn from his mistakes and obtain the hope that he has found. While the concept is not entirely new, it is surely something that this generation needs more of.
The album starts off with the banger “Burn Victims,” which encapsulates most of what TCM is known for: both hard-hitting and melodic guitar parts, soaring clean vocals, and powerful guttural bellowing. Rapp’s new screaming style, which has often been compared to that of Drew York’s of Stray from the Path, was a drastic and unexpected change, and caused a bit of controversy at first. But after listening to the first couple of songs, it is irrefutable that these new vocals add an abundance of emotion and genuineness to the record.
Aside from “Burn Victims” and “Smoke and Mirrors,” the first half of the album is mostly forgettable. The first five songs are riddled with the genre’s commonly fatal flaw: chugging. It is sad to see such talented guitarists rely on such a bland and overused ‘technique,’ if you will, and produce multitudes of predictable verses that revolve solely around the bottom two strings. The album’s two singles abuse the chug more than any of the other tracks. But then, just as many listeners may be on the verge of giving up, “Silver Lining” shows up just in time to save the day. This track reveals that TCM is still very much intact with the genre’s roots, and serves as a major turning point in the record. The song is fast, heavy, and far from generic – it could almost be considered a “Demon Teeth Pt. II.” It is also one of the most impressive lyrically. My personal favorite line is “Do you know how it feels to have your past/Sink its teeth right into your back?” From here on out, the album just gets better and better.
If there is one thing in particular that makes this album worthy of praise, it is without a doubt Rapp’s clean vocals. His voice has matured tremendously since the band’s debut album in 2009, and at some points, he even begins to sound like the notorious Jonny Craig. Rapp manages to craft some of his finest melodies to date on Know Hope, giving the back half of the album an irresistible emotional appeal. His stunning range shines brightest on tracks like “Steadfast,” “Saviorself,” and “Never Enders.”
The band does quite a bit of experimenting with “Steadfast,” which almost sounds like it could be a mix between Rise Against and Emarosa. The intro features melodic gang vocals that Rapp refers to as very “Comeback Kid-influenced,” and is followed by the most anthemic chorus on the record. Perhaps now would be a good time for me to admit that I am quite partial to this song, due to the fact that the band let me name it back in September…but that’s a story for another day. Also worth mentioning is the breakdown in “Have.Will” – it is one of the most creative breakdowns my ears have ever heard, and I can’t help but smile every time I listen to it.
As much as I was hoping for a flawless album, I can’t say that Know Hope is that album. If the band can manage to stray a bit further from the clichés of the genre in the near future, there will truly be nothing left to hold them back. Nonetheless, The Color Morale created something very special that won’t wear off any time soon, and it is sure to leave listeners dying for more.