Review Summary: Uplifting lyrics can’t make up for uninspired instrumentation and songwriting.
The Color Morale have recently become an unexpected focal point of debate in the modern metalcore scene. After releasing two solid yet predictable albums over the span of a few years, the band decided to make some minor yet surprising changes on their third full-length, 2013’s Know Hope
. Vocalist Garret Rapp dropped much of his typical metalcore screams and guttural lows for more hardcore punk-influenced harsh vocals, while the band’s instrumental section also took notes from the hardcore playbook, expanding their sonic palette in enough directions to keep the album fresh and frequently surprising. They were rewarded by a rapidly expanding fanbase among the Warped Tour crowd, as Know Hope
debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Chart. However, many of the band’s longtime fans accused them of “selling out” for changing their style in what they saw as a more mainstream-leaning direction. After leaving Rise Records earlier this year for competing label Fearless, many observers wondered if the band would prosper in a less stifling environment, or create a quick cash-in on the more generic elements of their last record.
Unfortunately, The Color Morale’s fourth full-length, Hold On Pain Ends
, far too frequently treads down the latter path, to middling results. This is not a bad
record per se, but it is one that passes in and out of the listener’s memory like a mediocre rom com movie… while it may be enjoyable enough in the midst of the experience, there is very little that latches on and begs for repeated listens. The potential - and problems - of the record set in immediately from the opening track, which kicks off the album’s recurring theme of struggling with personal demons, and is set to bland, chug-a-lug instrumentation with the occasional melodic line in the chorus. This would be fine if it was merely a setup for better things to come, but with very few exceptions, the record follows the opening track’s formula to a T. Every single song on the record features some variety of “uplifting” lines that are directed at the band’s fans, instructing them to persevere through the struggles in their lives and dealing with issues such as self harm and mental illness. While this was surprisingly effective on Know Hope
, the lyrics here often seem to barely scratch the surface of very serious issues, and often ring hollow, feeling like a cheap attempt at mimicking what the band seems to think made their last record successful. Cringe-worthy “pun” titles like “Damnaged”, “Prey For Me”, “Scar Issue” and “Between You and Eye” do not help matters. And the instrumentation is among the weakest in the band’s discography, rarely deviating from a standard metalcore formula. Virtually none of the progress made in Know Hope
is utilized in any significant way, with the exception being the increase in clean vocals.
The album closes with the titular track, a tender acoustic number that hits many of the notes that the rest of the album misses. While the lyrics are still typical in many ways, they feel more heartfelt and genuine than much of the record’s generalities, and Rapp’s delivery, combined with a slow-building sing-along outro, leads to a surprisingly poignant moment that closes Hold On Pain Ends
on a strong note. However, this standout track is ultimately too little, too late for a record that consistently fails to excel. The Color Morale seem to have proved their detractors right - this record feels like a cheap cash-in on the most mundane elements of the otherwise solid Know Hope. This is a completely competent, average post hardcore album - little more, little less. If that’s all this band was aiming for, then that’s fine, but it seems clear from the best moments of Know Hope
that they are capable of much more.