ALBUM REVIEW: Hopesfall – Arbiter

Release Date: July 13th 2018
Label: Equal Vision Records


When you think of the early 2000s wave of emotive post-hardcore, Hopesfall generally don’t quite slip off the collective tongue as easily as Thursday or Glassjaw, yet to anyone who has heard landmark albums such as ‘The Satellite Years’, they’re certainly a big deal.

‘Arbiter’ is the band’s first album since their reunion (if you don’t count a one-off reunion in 2011), and their first effort in eleven years. And when post-hardcore means something very different now to what it did then, perhaps it’s time for someone from the old guard to show some bands how it’s done.

When a band return after some time away, there’s two possible outcomes; do something totally different, or pick up exactly where you left off. From the moment you press play, it’s clear that Hopesfall have opted for the latter, going for a continuation of the slightly more restrained, melodic approach of 2007’s ‘Magnetic North’.

Not to say that they’ve lost their potency, of course, or their eye-raising song titles. Opener gets us off to an urgent start with Jay Forrest‘s scream-heavy intro, then his melancholic clean vocal comes, which is nicely reminiscent of Stephen Brodsky (Cave In).

And their superbly melded combination of light and heavy, recalls Cave In for the most part in general, and even Underoath to some degree in ‘Bradley Fighting Vehicle’, one of the strongest cuts. The band’s melodic prowess is highlighted further with the intricate opening of ‘Tunguska’, and interlude ‘Aphelion’ divides the album up nicely.

‘Drowning Potential’ is also further proof that they haven’t left the once more visceral approach behind entirely, with some guttural screams kicking us off before the wall of sound comes back in, assisted by chiming guitar lines.

‘Indigation And The Rise Of The Arbiter’ is another highlight; its spacey middle section serves as one of the high points, and it smoothly transitions to the grand, powerful coda. The quality controls have clearly been set high, and this song is one of many on this album that crams in many aspects in one go without feeling jarring or forced.

When many bands resort to contrived publicity stunts, or give themselves labels such as ‘fashion art rock’ in an attempt to cover up the fact that they have absolutely nothing to say, the return of a band such as Hopesfall is particularly welcome indeed, and ‘Arbiter’ is a more than worthy album to their discography with the simple power of subtlety, emotion, and melody.