The Color Morale - Know Hope
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Quite often there are bands that do everything right, but never reach the level of success that it seems they deserve. They write great songs, they play shows with big bands with which they share similar fan bases, they treat their fans great, and they show some amount of longevity. The Color Morale, from Rockford, Illinois, is that band. The five-piece band (six if you count Ramon Mendoza, who still writes and records lead guitar) have not seen nearly the success that many fellow Rise Records bands have seen over the last few years. I won’t try to figure out why—it could be their relatively plain image, their lack of a polarizing, super-charismatic frontman, or even because sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But lack of huge success or not, The Color Morale keep releasing great albums, and their newest attempt, Know Hope, is one of the best metalcore albums of the year.
Before listening to this album, a listener might want to know that it’s a moderate departure from the band’s previous style. On 2011’s My Devil In Your Eyes, vocalist Garret Rapp’s screaming vocals were deep growls not unlike those of Jake Luhrs (August Burns Red) or Winston McCall (Parkway Drive). On Know Hope, Rapp’s screams are drastically different—they’re more like yells that are comparable to Bring Me the Horizon’s Oliver Sykes. And behind these newly styled screams are guitar lines that dance around the vocals, rather than behind them. Many of the verses on this album are memorable because of the guitar just as much as the vocals.
As much as the band’s sound has changed over the course of a year or two, one thing that hasn’t changed at all is Rapp’s singing. Like always, he has one of the most versatile singing voices in metal music. At times his voice is so smooth it would work as an R&B voice (“Burn Victims”, “Strange Comfort”), and in some songs his voice is a rough mix between screaming and singing (“Learned Behavior”). The album's most fun song, “Steadfast,” features Rapp sing-yelling the first lines, “We’ve been deserted, that doesn’t mean that we deserve it,” then transitioning into the album’s smoothest singing immediately after that. The previously mentioned “Learned Behavior” will be a crowd favorite at live shows; it features an aggressive intro that leads into a pre-chorus of a reverberated female voice singing a melody reminiscent of August Burns Red’s “Empire” which dovetails into the catchiest chorus on the album, where Rapp yells “Come to me with anything that you’ll ever need.” While the second half of the album doesn’t pack the same punch as the first half, it is just as interesting because of the chill-inducing opening riff of “Saviorself” and the fascinating vocal melody progression of "Hole Hearted."
I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard vocalist Garret Rapp’s new screaming style. Like they did with me, the noticeable changes that The Color Morale have made to their formula may turn off some fans on first listen, but if those fans can take a step back and give the new Color Morale a fair chance, they’ll fall in love with Know Hope and fall in love with the band all over again just like I did.