Review Summary: An enjoyable, if scattered, debut.
Opting to craft a concept record for a debut is quite a precarious endeavor. Even the most veteran of bands can find themselves killing their careers as the lofty narrative they set out to create becomes as muddled as the musicianship it accompanies. When a band chooses to pursue a concept record as their first proper release, it is inevitably met with reproachful skepticism, as the young band has yet to prove themselves in any way. Enter Scan The Sky, a young band hailing from Southern Massachusetts, who seem to be in some state of identity crisis. But that should not be taken to mean they are a band not worth listening to. Stringing together a tale of hope and redemption, these young men seem to dip into a bevy of different genres during the story of the protagonist Hope in their 13 track debut Dear Hope
The album finds itself beginning with an ominous, nearly instrumental introduction, setting a mood that is not present in the rest of the album, the first implication that this record is pulling in many different directions. If one were to listen to the second track “Outlooks” immediately followed by the album closer “The Bell Jar” it would be a challenge to believe that both songs were penned by the same band. But that is part of the glory of this album; as the record progresses so does the descent into despair and aggression, so by the time the 13th track presents itself, it is almost as though it is a different band than previously experienced. As the record plays out, the storyline of a girl aptly named Hope is told through power chord octaves, de-tuned riffs and everything in between. The schism between genres is made abundantly apparent through something as simple as the multitude of different approaches in playing the guitar. Where one moment one is listening to a sailing chorus, the next moment finds the listener in a pit of attempted brutality and aggression.
Further lending to the notion that there is not much creative focus, is the fact that there are three different vocalists and three different guitar players. It seems that each singer/guitar player seems to embrace a different genre; one seemingly leaning towards pop-punk, another towards post-hardcore music, and finally one more finds himself wishing to be in a metalcore band. These three different approaches surly makes for a confusing listen cover to cover of this album. If songs were taken one at a time, out of context from the previous or upcoming track, they would be entirely more enjoyable, something that should not occur in a concept record. Lead single “Dear Hope, Never Leave Us” fares much better by its lonesome than placed between two songs of similar ilk.
Although it may seems that I find myself critiquing this album more than enjoying it, this is still an album that merits looking into. Lost in the myriad of genre struggles and length (the album finds itself lasting over an hour), or tracks that seem beyond the capabilities of such a young band. The previously mentioned “The Bell Jar” spans eight experimental minutes, exploring a vast array of different spaces a song could, and should go. There are welcome additions of perfectly placed piano parts and perfectly placed female vocals. The female vocals, provided by Sam Dumas, are a centerpiece to the entire album, as she is often employed to bring about different emotions that in her absence, are unobtainable. While Dear Hope
suffers from a lack of creative control, there is still an immense potential found within the crevices of these 13 tracks, potential that will inevitably manifest itself through maturation and experience in the coming years.