If Hope Dies - _Life in Ruin_
(Metal Blade, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (7.5 out of 10)
While they hail from the same part of the world as Manowar, it doesn't take much more than the first few opening moments of this quintet's sophomore effort to put any comparisons to rest in more ways than one. Notwithstanding the fact that at no point in the booklet or accompanying press photographs are any of the band members clad in leather, for the most part If Hope Dies offer only a cursory nod to traditional metal, traversing instead a similar creative direction to Chicago's Hurtlocker. What this means is full-on, balls-out metalcore; not the sort of prettified drivel that Metal Blade is becoming increasingly known for, but the scathing, aggressive kind that does real justice to the term. On the odd occasion where a clean-sung vocal line does rear its head, it's delivered with enough gusto to elevate it beyond being simply a token, formulaic inclusion.

Having Jason Suecof's stunning engineering work -- last shown off on God Forbid's massive _Constitution of Treason_ -- lend a crisp aural varnish to the album's eleven tracks doesn't hinder matters either, though to their credit with songs as strong as "Some Skynard" and "Dead Reckoning", it's obvious that If Hope Dies would sound good sans the studio wizardry as well.

_Life in Ruin_ may not be the best example of what modern metal has to offer -- that honour has been captured by Lamb of God, and by the looks of things, they aren't going to relinquish the title any time soon -- but in a subgenre that at times can make nu metal seem sincere, it's certainly several cuts above the vast majority of the competition.

Contact: http://www.ifhopedies.com

(article published 9/5/2006)

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