Review Summary: While unoriginal, Hope and Hindrance manages to provide some fun moments, which really show the bands potential.
Two years in the making Heart of a Coward finally release their debut album ‘Hope and Hindrance’. While Heart of a Coward aren’t the most well known band in the UK metal scene they have slowly been on the rise since the release of their EP; Dead Sea. With their mixture of metal, groove and tech, the five piece have managed to (partially) find a direction they want to move in, while it may not seem like it on the first listen, the styles feels like a more refined version of the sound they had on their EP The main change between the two releases is the addition of ex Sylosis vocalist Jamie Graham, who replaced Ben Marvin. He also handles clean vocal duties since the departure of guitarist Tim James who was later replaced by Steve Haycock, Tim and Ben later went on to form Hacktivist.
The album begins with ‘Killing Fields’, which will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. The constant down tuned ‘chugs’ complimented by the occasional lead guitar riffs thrown over the top. The tech metal influence on Heart of a Coward is immediately apparent, with the band using very off beat riffs and switching tempo rapidly. Instrumentally the album is pretty solid, drums sometimes feel like they could have been a bit more adventurous and seem to play it safe for most of the album, but do have some stand out moments in songs such as ‘Nightmare’ and ‘All eyes to the Sky’. The biggest improvement since their previous release I would say is the addition of Jamie Graham, who surpasses Ben Marvin’s performance on ‘Dead Sea’ massively. Lyrically the album does run into cliché territory a lot of the time, the most noteworthy example being ‘Shade’ which really feels like a missed opportunity. In comparison of clean vocals it’s really down to personal preference, Jamie gives a solid performance throughout the songs, which compliments the album nicely. Whether he is better than previous clean vocalist Tim James debatable.
In attempts to keep things fresh, Heart of a Coward throw in some interesting guitar moments that thankfully allows them to break away from the seemingly constant low b string riffs, which really provides some nice stand out moments like in the middle section of ‘Around a Girl (In 80 Days)’. It’s a shame that the album doesn’t have many more of these moments, where the guitars break out from the unoriginal grooves that seem to plague most of the album. As is the case with most metal albums the bass is practically inaudible, which is, a shame considering the mix is practically dominated by the guitars, which can come across as overpowering at times. Overall the production of the album is pretty solid, drums sometimes feel like they have taken a back seat in the mix compared to the guitars, which sometimes even overpower the vocals. But there are some genuinely cool production moments like how ‘Shade’ and ‘Nightmare’ blend into one another and how the main riff from ‘Nightmare’ slowly creeps in after a huge opening. Overall production is smooth, guitars could have sounded a bit clearer but that’s just a matter of opinion.
If you’re not a fan of breakdowns then you may want to just give this album a miss, they’re pretty frequent and can sometimes feel like the band used them just to fall back on at times. For example the beginning of ‘Around a girl (in 80days)’ is very standard in breakdown territory, which does go on for far too long. Not to say the album doesn’t have some moments of variety, ‘Light’ is a very nice change of pace with the band using clean riffs and singing vocals with light drums that really provide some much needed variety to the album and show that the band can do something other than laying down very heavy riffs. ‘And Only Time Will Tell’ also provides a very different feel with some hardcore influence which has some nice guitar moments which are also backed up with some very standard but interesting lead riffs over the top. Unfortunately the song falls back on a very long breakdown in the middle section; which is a shame considering it could have been the best song on the album, it just comes across as lazy. The song does pick up again after this long distraction, but it just feels like it can’t reclaim its initial promise. While both of these songs aren’t anything that hasn’t been done before they still have enough heart (no pun intended) in them to keep the album feeling quite fresh. Even though it feels like it out stays its welcome, seven and a half minute final song ‘Break These Chains’ which feels like it could have easily been 3 minutes shorter manages to provide a very flat ending to a very mixed album.
While ‘Hope and Hindrance’ isn’t the most original or consistent album ever made, it still does manage to provide some fun moments, just don’t expect it to break any new ground in the metal scene.
And Only Time Will Tell