For those following the most successful groups in metalcore lately, The Color Morale’s name is likely to have come up at some point. The band’s fanbase has grown in scope as steadily as the metalcore movement as whole, while groups like August Burns Red and As I Lay Dying proved to the average music fan that no, not every group with a harsh vocalist is a Satanist cult. As the paradigm has shifted, metalcore has gained momentum, allowing groups like The Color Morale to gain a large amount of fans. As the scene’s grown, though, so has the monotony, leading many to believe a modern metalcore group simply can’t be successful without adhering to the tired clichés of breakdowns, or “chugs,” etc. The Color Morale has worked with this formula for awhile, but the group’s 2013 release Know Hope
sees a metalcore group aiming for innovation, and adopting a few unique characteristics to the scene overall.
For starters, there’s certainly something to be said for the stylistic shifts at hand-- vocalist Garret Rapp now works with a more hardcore-influenced shout, instead of the gutturals and screams expected of the group. The change isn’t anything drastic, but will at least catch the old-school fans off-guard. Instrumentally, the album even takes steps towards other musical directions, most of which work well for the group. “Silver Lining” is a hardcore bombshell reminiscent of Every Time I Die, a stellar track showcasing Rapp in his newfound vocal terrain. And elsewhere, “Learned Behavior” shows off the melodic edge The Color Morale has always had over its peers. The reason the song works so well as an opening single is that it exemplifies the level of comfort the metalcore group is striving to meet: the track is immediate, and thoughtful in how it so very narrowly sidesteps the pitfalls common in the metalcore genre. Sure, there’s nothing particularly innovative in the track, but it knows how to utilize Rapp’s variety of vocals to its advantage. Moments like these are when The Color Morale really impresses, and convinces us that maybe the rest of the album is as robust.
It’s a damned shame, then, that the rest of Know Hope
doesn’t particularly follow suit. Blame it on a mixed agenda-- one minute, the band is flirting with metalcore in the innovative way Underoath did with Define The Great Line
, only to follow suit with a disposable breakdown. And from the gimmicky usage of electronics to the bafflingly arranged vocal parts (seriously, what is Rapp thinking in the heavier part of “Steadfast”?,) Know Hope
bolsters wildly schizophrenic production. It implies the group wants to be yet another metalcore imitator, even if it’s apparent the group is aiming higher. In order to achieve more noteworthy growth, it seems The Color Morale may need to go with some new studio tricks.
The lyrics are also a major flaw here, much too try-hard in nature. From one vague life statement to the next, Garret Rapp says little via witticism, penning lyrics that are poetic but ultimately meaningless. From the main refrain in “Learned Behavior” (Sometimes it's good to build up walls / not to keep anyone out / but to see who cares enough to knock them down) and its overdramatic flair to “Steadfast”’s mind-boggling lyric (“You can never leave an island in your mind / until you lose sight of the shoreline / You can try and fail / but don't fail to try,) many of the album’s lyrics exude pure carelessness. Considering the moments that work here, it makes one sad to realize what the album could have been, and how much meaningful lyrics could have strengthened the group’s sound.
There are certainly some ways in which Know Hope
is the most innovative release from The Color Morale yet. At the end of the day, the album exists as a mish-mashing of vehement hardcore with more predictable metalcore, and is overall at least a change to the formula. There’s something to be said for adhering to what a band does best, though, and in The Color Morale’s case, the band has always been best at improving upon what other groups have crafted. This idea isn’t inherently problematic-- there’s nothing wrong with taking influence from others and fine-tuning it. Hell, The Color Morale’s debut album We All Have Demons
didn’t do anything particularly unexpected, but possessed a strong sense of allure because its music was full of life, no matter how derivative the sum of its whole. Things have changed, though-- Know Hope
is actually at its weakest when it works in a continuation of style. It seems The Color Morale is no longer content with simply being another metalcore group signed to Rise Records. The group wants to be more than its peers, and that much is clear from the pockets of innovation found within Know Hope
. And while the album’s too inconsistent in style to be considered a successful change of pace for the group, it’s at least a promising sign of things to come.