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A Fragile Hope is the debut album by Devil Sold His Soul and is actually my favourite Metal album ever, perhaps my all time favourite cd. I'm going to try and describe and do it justice, a difficult task.
It combines sweeping chord progressions, anguished screams, haunting melodies and epic, crushing riffs. It is very much different to any other Metal band around and it deserves to be heard. It is characterised by mid-tempo, long songs which build up in dynamics and textures, similar to the post-metal genre. They go from extreme, brutal heaviness, to sparse and atmospheric within a single song. This is not for people with short attention spans looking for some painted by the numbers metal or for people who have music as just background noise, and don't actively listen to it and take it in. This is a hair tingling, spine-chilling experience.
1. In the Absence of Light
The intro of the album, a slow, ambient, building, melodic instrumental, which is the perfect opener. It reaches a crescendo and you get absolutely pummelled with.....
2. As The Storm Unfolds
The transition between these two tracks is brilliant; the false sense of security gained from the first track is destroyed by an angry scream and a blistering riff. As the Storm Unfolds is probably the definitive DSHS track, featuring them at their heaviest but with sudden dynamic transitions into quiet building melodic sections. The high pitched screams of Ed Gibbs are about as abrasive as metal singing can get, it's not just shouting, you can almost hear his vocal chords being shredded and it successfully adds another texture of heaviness and angst to the music. Ed Gibbs is also a great clean singer, as shown by the epic chorus which hits you after a lull in the action, his voice a perfect accompaniment to the searing guitar chords. After the second lull, everything comes in with a gargantuan riff which is guaranteed to make you throw yourself around.
3. The Starting
This track is a slow moving monster, with a haunting riff. The first 3 minutes are loud/soft sections with a very creepy bass riff until the melody comes in, beautiful and sad. It gradually builds up with layered textures and soaring samples until another epic melodic moment, mixed with passionate screams. It then builds back down again with desolate, sparse clean vocals.
4. Sirens Chant
A majestic highlight to the album. Starts with a single repeated chord with other parts changing around it and it works. More scream/clean singing contrast sections held together with intricate bass lines. It ends with a very uplifting instrumental section which enraptures the listener.
5. At The End Of The Tunnel
A sludgy down-tuned beast, punctuated by almost tribal drumming before turning into a flurry of fast riffs. Brutal and heavy. Fades out with just the drums and guitar feedback and finishes on one last crushing chord which rings out....
5. Between Two Words
..while a delicately plucked emerges underneath. This song is a gradual build up to a progressive soundscape with ethereal vocals, and fragile clean guitars. It is a captivating 8 minutes, going between contrasting moods and textures. The minor feel to it brings a dark, melancholy aura to the track.
6. Awaiting The Flood
A faster more riff based song, more based on mood and texture than melody ending with frantic, overpower guitar chords and an unexpected breakdown just when you think the song has finished, which you can just imagine a giant circle pit.
7. Dawn Of The First Day
The last 3 songs are album highlights for me and play well one after the other. Dawn Of The First Day starts off with an intricate but gently enchanting guitar melody before hitting you with an overwhelming chorus with breathtaking clean singing. It ends with an epic instrumental section and a sad and barren outro which slows down and merges seamlessly into...
I love the intro to this track, progressive and melodic, emotional without one word said. The transition to the screaming is magnificent; this song manages to be bleak and uplifting. The texture thins out until just an eerie screamed shout is left, crying "this is our last hope!".
This is my all time favourite song.
It starts off with an enchanting chordal sequence with sublime piano chords, slowly thickening out in texture with the drums entering on a hypnotic tom ostinato and guitars strumming faster with each cycle. The layering of sounds is beautiful and expressive. The end of the build up is punctuated with these two lonely, unexpected chords which are just genius. Then the most epic chord progression kicks in with soaring guitar harmonies and a slow, relentless, driving feel. Every single time I listen to this song, the hairs on my neck stand up. Some of my friends don't like this song because they say it is too repetitive but not if you take in the subtle changes in textures and the building layers. Next atmospheric sounds soar over the top and the piano chords become broken up and the bass does this amazing slide before the huge climax with the breathtaking clean vocals. This is stunning both musically and lyrically, I have not yet found any other compares which compares in emotional content. It then finishes on a crushing rallentando with soul rending screams. The piano finishes the track, and is the perfect ending to the album, harrow and forlorn, it ends while you are reeling from the 52 minutes of devastation, with a sense of completion and a yearning for more. Amazing
The amount of emotion conveyed through simple guitar lines, playing nothing flash or fancy is incredible. The drumming is also just right, not too busy and complicated and the bass holds everything together and often takes the lead. I love the production; it is very live sounding with lots of feedback and reverb, creating a huge epic soundscape. I like it when the vocals are back in the mix, because every instrument is of equal importance and nothing is overpower another. This would be because the guitarist Jonny Renshaw is the producer and he knows exactly how they sound.
The only criticism I would have is that all in all it could be just one giant long song. There isn't that much contrast between the tracks and they all have similar loud/soft heavy/melodic sections. Also the high pitch screaming isn't to everyone's tastes and is quite monotonal.
Aside from this it is a stunning debut album which was recorded all by themselves in the guitarist's home studio. DSHS already show progression and maturity beyond their short time as a band which some bands haven't achieved in a lifetime. This is a masterpiece
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In The Absence Of Light
2 As The Storm Unfolds
4 Sirens Chant
5 At The End Of The Tunnel
6 Between Two Words
7 Awaiting The Flood
8 Dawn Of The First Day