Metalcore is like that friend from high school who keeps coming back. Just when you think you’ve left it behind for good, here comes another Facebook notification or Instagram post to remind you that, yes, this thing was once a part of your life. Admittedly, sometimes the reunion isn’t so bad (see last year’s While She Sleeps album). Other times, it’s the equivalent of wiping your ass with poison ivy (see We Have the Moon or that Mycelia record that L. Saunders recently reviewed). Then there are those times when you’re stuck in the middle. You’re reminded of those fun days in high school playing Guitar Hero and stealing dad’s Wild Turkey from the liquor cabinet, and yet a big part of you screams you’ve moved past all that.1
Enter German quintet Drowning in You. Their name is exactly the type of thing I would have eaten the fuck up as a teenager, and thus I couldn’t help but grab their Here Is Hope debut for review. Interestingly enough, the band actually began as an alternative rock group in 2014 before adding additional members and moving their sound into the polarizing realms of metalcore.
Only “metalcore” doesn’t quite tell the full story. In actuality, Drowning harbor a prominent melodic hardcore influence that becomes evident in their twirling melodies, quick punky rhythms, and the roughly equal ratio of clean to harsh vocals. Melodic death metal riffs are virtually nonexistent on Hope and breakdowns often take a backseat to frontman Michael Gerhard’s singing. It helps that Gerhard has a pretty impressive set of pipes, with not a trace of Autotune present and a delivery that’s emotional without being “emo.” His youthful performance carries early highlights “Rely on Yourself” and “Charyou Tree”2 straight from my headphones and into the shower, where I’ve been singing them before work nearly every day this week. The songs are catchier than the plague and remind me more of modern bands like Alazka or aforementioned While She Sleeps than 00’s metalcore.
Nothing else matches these two tracks, but some come close. “Lost Boys” features similarly melodic and rushing verses before erupting into its own addictive chorus,3 while “Here Is Hope” and “Old Wounds Opened” ride on chunky chords and jumpy grooves that remind me of Unearth. Later, “Every Day’s a Struggle” serves as the obligatory ballad that still manages to succeed, soaring on vast melodies that recall the majesty of This or the Apocalypse’s slower tracks.
But just like how that high school acquaintance soon starts annoying you in the same way as all those years ago, so too does Hope dredge up the flaws of metalcore past. Though the guitars are energetic and the inclusion of solos is a plus, much of the riffing isn’t particularly memorable. Likewise, while “Hurt” actually features some interesting Bullet for My Valentine influence in the vocal patterns and inflections, its forgettable chorus is one of several sprinkled throughout the album. The occasionally generic lyrics also drag Hope down but are often easy enough to overlook, with the exception of intro track “Failure Closure.” This track wallows through cliché spoken-word lines like “I always saw myself as a fighter/But what if I don’t remember what’s worth fighting for anymore?” before Gerhard repeatedly calls himself a failure and moves into rap-esque vocal patterns. It’s a case where maybe his heart should have been put somewhere other than his sleeve.
Despite all that, Hope isn’t a bad album. Even if the loud production makes it easy to tune things out, the slick sound is a good fit for the style. Likewise, it’s refreshing how young and earnest Drowning in You sound. Though there’s a good bit of generic material here, there’s little that’s outright obnoxious and a decent amount of variety. If this came out in 2006, I’d be rushing to download it from the iTunes store and posting one of its better tracks to my Myspace page. Sadly it’s no longer the mid-00s, and though the potential is certainly here, it’s ultimately hard to recommend Here Is Hope to anyone who doesn’t already have an emotional connection to the genre.