Review Summary: Heaven knows we can all relate to the message within.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Words cannot fully justify just how fitting that the phrase “…can only hope” bookends the beginning and end of As Hell Retreats’ second full length album, Volition
. A tightly woven record steeped with rage and spiritual warfare, Volition
follows the loose concept of a boy raised to believe in God only to have his faith continuously challenged and driven to the brink of abandonment. Unlike, say, a Michael W. Smith album, this collection of twelve songs refuses to blindly worship, but instead provides an uncomfortably naked and distinctly human perspective of the struggles of faith and dealing with tribulation. Along with A Plea For Purging’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
spans the gamut of unpleasant human emotions, dragging the listener through moments of mourning, confusion, delusion and most of all – unbridled fury.
'Volition' is defined as ‘an act of making a choice or decision’ and right from the disjointed opening moments of “Young Heretic”, obvious is the fact that As Hell Retreats make the decision to bring the ruckus. Frontman Jackson Greene spews uneasy lines such as “I’ll keep believing there is something/And only hope I am living life with a meaning/But who are you?/Who are you, God?” over the rhythmic pummeling of Tyler Riley and Taylor Jones, making “Young Heretic” a feisty opener. However, the aforementioned song comes across as more of a warm up compared to a couple other selections. “Shun” redefines what should be considered a passionate vocal performance as Greene shreds his vocal chords with scraping highs and furious lows. Increasing the hysterics, “Misanthropist” finds As Hell Retreats charging sonically into overwhelmingly heavy territory. Any song named after an individual with contempt for mankind could be expected to hit hard, but with titanic breakdowns and screamed passages such as “As much as I want to believe in something/Whether it be for a god or for man/My hope has faded away.”, “Misanthropist” captures Volition
‘s protagonist in the bleakest state comprehensible and the musical backdrop captures his contempt perfectly. While the hell storm that As Hell Retreats delivers at their heaviest is sure to capture listeners’ attention, Volition
‘s cohesive nature is what allows the record to shine.
Mentioned previously was that Volition
is a tightly woven record. From track to track, As Hell Retreats bring a destructive, spiritually pained musical backdrop. While one could consider this mainly consisting of spoken word runs and cookie-cutter breakdowns in the vein of August Burns Red, Volition is not a one trick pony. “The Loss” is a minute-long lamentation, featuring somber, meticulous guitar playing. “A Beggar…” explores a droning, dim atmosphere with the instrumentation playing second-fiddle to Greene’s tortured howls. Accompanying piece, “…And His Faith”, reignites the upbeat tempo of the record with a bright, punk influenced energy. “Creator(s)” is arguably the prettiest moment on a rather ugly record as the protagonist’s deceased mother visits him while unconscious after what is assumed to be a suicide attempt – “Wake up”, she insists.
On his deathbed lies the protagonist as Volition
‘s conclusion, “Only Hope”, begins. Featuring an extensive guest list including Matt Janssen from In the Midst of Lions, Aaron Stone from My Epic and Tom Hirst from The Gun Show, each vocalist plays the role of either the boy’s friend, father or minister. Labeling the song as poignant would be a vast understatement. The boy’s friend expresses outrage, the father – regret and the minister – uncertainty – as Stone croons “I can only hope you wake up from this sleep/So you can be the angel she would want you to be/Whether it’s here or up there/We can only hope!”
Record over. As Hell Retreats’ Volition
is not a joyous listening experience. Volition
is a musically varied album that stretches straight for the heart, praising and damning the privilege of decision making. No one is secluded from the trials and tribulations that life provides on a daily basis and ultimately, our decisions – what we participate in, who we confide in and above all else, what we believe in, are our choices to make. My only hope is that you will give As Hell Retreats’ second full length album, Volition
, a careful listen. Heaven knows we can all relate to the message within.