Halcyon Hope

Northern Lights

Written by: TL on 04/01/2014 17:39:29

In a country where emo never really caught on before.. well before My Chemical Romance happened and emo wasn't really emo anymore, what would happen one wonders, if members of three underground bands got together to make music influenced by their shared love for Taking Back Sunday and groups of their ilk? Actually I lie, one doesn't wonder like that, it's preposterous, it would never happen, except now it has, with The Fall From Grace singer and guitarist Miki Petersen joining forces with Bad Altitude's Morten Petersen and Minor Flaw's Nicolaj Rosander and Søren Waaben, to form Halcyon Hope, a band which, while they are leaving it to fans to discover it, are clearly influenced by the highly melodic emo-punk groups from the beginning of the music-sharing internet era.

The funny thing about bands from that time, and the likely reason emo got diluted probably faster than any trend-phrase before it, is that nobody was actually trying to make "emo". Everybody was just trying to make rocking, 'real' music, not caring if their vocals sounded at all pretty and not being coy about playing melodies that could quickly connect with their peers. That description fits Halcyon Hope's debut mini-album "Northern Lights" like a glove, with Petersen and Rossander trading vocal lines that are allowed to be as strained and rough as the melodies are allowed to be obvious and the songwriting is allowed to be straight to the point. The main difference between this stuff and the early 2000s material that inspired it really is the quantum leap recording technology has taken in the meantime, making every raspy breath clearly audible and every crunchy chord progression beefy, as opposed to the original emo records most of which had a distinct 90s fuzziness to their sound.

First track "Bit By Bit" is simultaneously symptomatic of what's up and also a clear display of how eager the band has been to get these sounds out, roaring out the gates at an almost clumsily frantic pace, only to go half tempo for brief spells, before re-upping the speed and then eventually winding its way up to the first anthemic climax of the record, the anguished croons of which you can easily sing along to by the second listen. Second track and leading single "Monuments" settles down for a more subtly strummed verse-part which reminds me of Knapsack/The Jealous Sound, although Halcyon Hope can't help but unleash comparatively more energy when the chorus comes around. Personally I'm not the biggest fan of "Whoa-oh" singalongs like the one that ends the song, but it is undeniably a catchy number and one understands why it was chosen as the single.

The following "The Beast Is Yet To Come" keeps the TBS/Blair Shehan mixture flowing, opening with rim-hits and breathy "hhah-hhah" vocals that are playfully poppy, before heading into another frantic call/response battle that clearly nods towards young Adam Lazzara and Fred Mascherino and ending with guitar riffs cascading enjoyably underneath the refrain. Things then step down for a mellow opening to "Northern Lights" which sounds almost radio rock-ish to begin with because of the mature strain to Petersen's singing, yet ends in a screamed out climax before "Black Eyes" brings the album to its most intense with a signature riff and backing scream that could've been on an early Senses Fail album.

I could keep digging references out of the remaining variety presented through "Rite Of Passage" and "Dead And Gone", but I'd rather leave it because Halcyon Hope has surprised me positively by already putting out a record that I'd really recommend you check out and get into for yourself. The only noticeable chink in its armor is that the rough, heart-on-sleeve vulnerability of the vocals might at times sound a bit too in-your-face and off-kilter for some (there's a part in the middle of "Rite Of Passage" that sounds a tad sharp and punk-ish even for my ears), but the openly soaring melodies should be able to shine through this even for touchy listeners who consider it an issue. I guess you could argue that releasing an emo rock album in 2014 is insane, especially in Denmark, but then forget about my emo designation and just listen to this as simple melodic rock. My guess is you'll like it more than you expect. Meanwhile you'll have to excuse me while I write the band asking for the lyrics and their next show dates.


Download: Bit By Bit, Monuments, The Beast Is Yet To Come
For The Fans Of: Taking Back Sunday, Further Seems Forever, Knapsack,
Listen: facebook.com/HalcyonHope

Release Date 01.01.2014
Discretion Is Paramount Records

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