Review Summary: In Hearts Wake's fourth full length record features highs and lows in equal measures. A streamlined effort, what this record lacks in imagination it makes up for in it's message.
In Hearts Wake are a 5 piece metalcore band who formed in 2006 in Byron Bay, Australia. The band's first full length 'Divination' released in 2011, and the band quickly began gaining traction. With 'Ark' being the band's fourth full length, they've gained a solid following in the last six years through relentless touring and consistent releases. I was a big fan of 'Divination' when it released, and enjoyed their second full length 'Earthwalker' considerably too. I began to lose touch with In Hearts Wake after that record, as I felt the band were failing to do anything refreshing or even match the quality of their first two records with their further efforts. With that being said, I was interested to see what they'd produced for 'Ark'.
The first half of this album is underwhelming. I felt like I'd heard most of the tracks before, with many of them feeling like B-sides to previous releases. The riffs were uninspired, there was the odd breakdown here and there that I would tap my foot to but for the most part the instrumentation was lackluster. A lot of the vocal phrasing is outright boring, and with the exception of 'Frequency' I found the majority of these songs skippable.
However, just as I was ready to give up on this record, track 7 begins, and I'm met with an atmosphere, clear emotion and beautiful ambiance. 'Arrow' marks the beginning of this album for me. This track features bassist and singer Kyle Erich only with lead vocalist Jake Taylor notable by his absence, and is easily the strongest song on the record. After this point, the record begins to pick up. The ferocity of the heavier tracks like 'Flow' and 'Overthrow' sounds genuine, with both tracks combining spacious verses with crushing riffs and hard choruses, 'Overthrow' in particular uses some interesting percussive sounds. It's the little additions in these tracks that makes them stand out from the first half of the record, and it feels like In Hearts Wake really gave themselves to these songs.
The heavily ambient closer 'Now' is an example of this band's potential to move forward. Although little happens for the first 2 minutes into the track, there's clear ability to write these more interesting, different tracks, and I think if IHW focus on this kind of material when writing for their next release we could see something rather special from them. You need only listen to the songs on 'Earthwalker' to see what this band are truly capable of. They have the ability to create atmosphere whilst being heavy, and I fear they've fallen into the trap of streamlining so many modern metalcore bands do, as opposed to continuing to experiment.
There's no denying that In Hearts Wake went into this record with the best of intentions. What they do have that many don't is a strong, clear and unique message. Prior to this record's release, the band organized a programme to clean up water ways and beaches in Australia, and called it the 'We Are Waterborne Initiative'. The band's pure and positive environmental message has been consistent throughout their discography, and that is commendable.
This album is very hit and miss. It's not a bad record at all, but with only one half of it really standing out to me, I'm not sure where to place this. There are some very enjoyable moments here, but I know the band is capable of more. This record just lacks that extra spark of imagination that their previous releases have had. Maybe get Nic Pettersen to track drums again" Regardless, In Hearts Wake are very good dudes. I've met them in person before and they're exceptionally honest and down to earth individuals, and for that I'll be supporting them any way. At the very least I would recommend checking out some of the conservation work these guys have been involved in if you're interested in environmental issues. Personal favourites on this for me are 'Arrow', 'Frequency' and 'Flow'. If you're interested in hearing their best work, I recommend their first two full lengths.