Review Summary: With room for all things desolate, the bottom of the void yields more of a sheen than the band’s previous engagements.
I want to wind things back a little here. Hope Drone’s (self-titled) debut is an ambitious, defining piece for metal. I’m not saying it’s innovative in the genres to which it sits on both sides of the fence - but the gritty, hybridization into the world of post-meets-black metal had a certain intent about it. It’s the kind of music that allows for easier hyperbolic descriptions, yet doesn’t define “how” this music should be enjoyed. It was (and still is) a refreshing take on a genre focused on combining ‘twinkly’ elements with the usual discord and dissonance. The group’s sophomore had a similar effect, but it’s ambition was again dialed up a notch. Cloak Of Ash
became more expansive than expected; especially in run time (being more than double the length of the debut) which lost a few listeners along the way. This year’s Void Lustre
continues Hope Drone’s ambitious tendency, but dials in some much needed focus to their lush isolation of sound. Void Lustre
is an emotionally raw landscape, bolstered by a giving production and ensnaring atmosphere.
The album’s opening piece, “Being Into Nothingness” immediately starts the immersion into Hope Drone’s latest effort. A graceful, yet ominous charge of cleans highlights the natural progression of the Australian group’s musical maturity. The thirteen minute track may dictate itself to the same patience strangling tones found in the sophomore, but there’s something more developed here. Each light note and soft percussion lends itself to a completely immersive atmosphere. A slow build turns into a painstakingly crafted crescendo of sorts and Hope Drone are suddenly at full tilt, engrossed completely into this endearment of black metal that’s truer to the band’s debut than the genre it’s labelled under. If Cloak Of Ash
was ever too much of a journey for the listener, the shorter Void Lustre
carries itself with better momentum, keeping with it an organic, melancholic feel defined again by this uncanny ability to meld atmosphere and dragging almost-crawling riffs. In places, Void Lustre
is predictable enough, but it’s these common foundations that hold the listener to a more accessible foundation of sound. The icy riffs that dominate “In Floods & Depths” is sinister, visceral and juxtaposes most of the record’s other compositions. Instrumentally speaking, this is the “truest” Hope Drone has sounded in their career, but its sound is help to the same foundation to which all the band’s music comes. There’s a beauty here, hidden in the jagged edges and desolate aggression. It’s not something that comes easily, but is made all the more important to the expression itself. Hope Drone show here that there’s not always going to be abstention.
has an air of finality, yet it’s pensive to the core. The album’s final track takes even less of the atmosphere on offer and straightens it into a restrained clime in its place. It’s fitting that Hope Drone would close as they open; in simplicity, given the space to breathe without the over complication of genre stereotypes. It’s a seventeen minute epic of simple grandiosity, complementing the rest of the album without repetition. “In Shifting Lights” occasionally dips into the nuances that made Cloak Of Ash
such an ambitious, yet challenging listen, This time around however, it’s more rewarding to the listener that can persevere through a deluge of undecipherable lyricism and repetitively heart-wrenching musicianship.
Hope Drone continues to captivate with organic minimalism (whether it be the feedback induced tail end of “This Body Will Be Ash” or the quiet cleans of “Being Into Nothingness”) juxtaposed to those consistently abrasive jagged instrumental sections that carry one theme of despair to another of melancholy and subtle hope. Sure, the shorter run time allows Void Lustre
to be more easily held onto than its predecessor, yet it’s (speaking in terms of sonic ability) more challenging than the sophomore and in turn, the band’s debut. Despite the rather obvious short-coming of the album’s overall length and a tendency to occasionally tune its listeners out, Hope Drone’s 2019 piece is more digestible than the monolithic nature in Cloak Of Ash
, using its repetitive phrases to hypnotize its listeners, carrying them on this journey of sound. Void Lustre
is more about the clashing, growing atmosphere than the pilgrimage of abrasive black metal juxtapositions found before it.