In the run up to 2009’s ‘The Best In Town’, The Blackout had been steadily gaining a reputation as one of the most explosive live bands and one of the most hotly tipped newcomers in the British scene. Upon the release of that album the band simply exploded. They received popularity that they probably wouldn’t have even dreamed of themselves. So to say I had hoped (no pun intended) that their third album ‘Hope’ would lead on from that success is an understatement.
However, sadly this is not the case. Instead, it seems that with popularity has also come musical regression. Whilst some may see it as a continuation of the more mature route they took on their last album, ‘Hope’ sees a lot of the fun riffs and explosive vocals taken out of the songs, and for me that marks the death of the band that they once were.
At times throughout the record, Sean Smith‘s ear piercing yelps play second fiddle to Gavin Butler‘s tuneful voice. This is more present than ever on ‘Higher And Higher’, which also features an interesting, if not inappropriate rap section from Hydra Da Hero. On rare occasion, like on ‘The Devil Inside’, it does work, and the mix of vocals fits nicely over a pounding riff. However, when the band decide to use Smith‘s screams as nothing more than gap filler on tracks like ‘No More Waiting’, it just sounds a little messy and all too forced. Whilst I’m not one for bonus tracks, their laughable cover of Andrew W.K.‘s ‘Party Hard’ is well worth a listen just for pure comedic value, which once again highlights the downturn this band has undergone.
Once again, the Lostprophets comparisons come to mind all too quickly, and for a band that were hailed as the new Lostprophets, it comes as no great surprise that they decided to exercise their influences even more on this album. Songs like the title track and ‘You Are Not Alone’ unashamedly run this comparison closer than ever, for fans of both bands this will be no problem, but for a band who will one day try and take the crown as the biggest band in Wales, they’ll need to grow and stand on their own feet rather than just becoming just another rip-off band.
On a positive note though, the band’s ear for a good riff is still there, and on ‘Never By Your Side’ it is more present than ever. ‘This Is Our Time’ also provides the listener with one of the best listens on this album. It also comes as no surprise that these two songs are not only the best songs on the album, but also the heaviest, which shows that when the band take more of a leaning towards their older material, that’s when they sound their best.
Musically, this is probably the most developed album The Blackout has ever produced, but it just doesn’t really feel like them. Whilst ‘The Best In Town’ was a step away from their first album, it was packed full of killer hooks that ‘Hope’ just seems to lack. It’s probably this fact alone that makes it a difficult and frustrating listen, and whilst there are good parts, The Blackout may need to rethink their approach in the future. A must purchase for any fans of either The Blackout or Lostprophets but it’s well worth steering clear of out of pure curiosity.
Written by Oliver Thompson