Lacrimas Profundere is an awkward moniker that’s tough to say and harder to spell, but they’ve been one of the most successful and consistent goth-metal acts over the last 20 years. I really enjoyed 2010s The Grandiose Nowhere and 2013s Antiadore and they’ve proven to be one of the few goth acts that know how to inject real aggression and “metal” into their sound (so much so that I frequently include their music on play lists I run and work out to). Naturally, I expected their streak of quality outings to continue on Hope is Here, but this is a bit of a departure from their usual fare. It’s their first attempt at a concept album and it features a more restrained, depressive style than we’ve seen in recent years. Much of the material is extremely laid back goth-rock without much of their trademark aggression and at times it begs the question – can a goth metal album be too goth of its own good?
With a concept revolving around a lonely boy left to dwell in the forest because he’s different (the upcoming movie version is called Pete’s Dragon), you would expect a healthy dose of glum, depressive music, and that’s what opener “The Worship of Counting Down” delivers. It seems a strange choice for an opener though, as it’s very slow, sedate and quite long at over 6-plus minutes. It reminds me of Danzig‘s “Little Whip” but with all the mansweat and machismo sponged off, and though it’s effectively gloomy and haunting, it runs at least 2 minutes too long and does a poor job enticing the listener to stay tuned for more. Things pick up with “My Halo Ground,” which brings a bit more punch to the still sleepy goth palate, but when the title track hits it’s the same languid, slow rock that would make The Cure seem uplifting by comparison, though it’s decent for what it is.
“Aramis,” “A Million Miles” and “No Man’s Land” eventually deliver the classic Lacrimas Profundere style and the resulting oomph is much appreciated, and “Pageant” stands out for mixing dark, ominous country music with traces of Danzig and what sounds like pieces of The Beatles “Help.” However, almost the entire back-half of the album consists of glum ballads or quasi-ballads and though they’re effectively despondent, they’re also dull and apart from “Timbre,” they don’t stick like the band’s material usually would.
At just over 45 minutes, the ponderous pacing of Hope is Here makes it feel much longer and by the time closing ballad “Black Moon” arrives, I’m so lost in the forests of boredom that I simply don’t care what happens to lost boys anymore. The overabundance of mid-tempo or slow-tempo cuts is surprising, and though Lacrimas always had these kinds of tracks, they wisely offset them with just as many flat-out rockers that got your head moving. Without those counterbalancing “hard” tracks, this quickly becomes a slog through the trees of apathy. The track order also works against them, as you get 3 snoozers before the first “high energy” track arrives to shake you from a narcoleptic stupor.
The core of the band has remained the same for a few albums now and though I really love Rob Vitacca’s vocals on the last three albums, he often sounds tired and uninspired here, like a dissipated Ville Valo (H.I.M.). When the songs ramp up, Vitacca sounds like himself, but on mega-ballads like “You, My North” his delivery is so stereotypically sadboy it’s almost comical. The dialed-down energy and pacing also leaves little for guitarists Oliver Nikolas Schmid and Tony Berger to do and this is an album without much in the way of actual riffs. They still know how to create a downcast atmosphere with their melodic noodling and understated, minimalist playing, but too much downcast is just too damn much.
I wanted to love this, but Hope is Here is definitely a step downward and lacks the vibrancy of their better albums. It isn’t a total loss though, as there are some quality songs and the restrained and introspective style makes for the near perfect soundtrack for a vicious hangover or a weekend trapped inside as winter imposes its frigid dominion. Since this is actually a summer release, I recommend storing it next to the snow shovel and bourbon and then playing the waiting game.