It was back in 2012 that British metallers Lay Siege introduced themselves to a broader national awareness through mini album Obolus. It was an impressive and potential soaked entrance from which its keenly anticipated successor has been a long time coming. It certainly feels a hefty wait but the Northampton based quartet have now returned with debut album hopeisnowhere, a mighty ear grabbing encounter which realises plenty of that early promise whilst setting down its own new surge of greater potential. It is a formidable and imposing proposition, a captivating one too with its dramatic fusion of metalcore, post metal, and various other strands of extreme and melodic enterprise, and though it at times misses the final spark or unique bait to lure the strongest lustful reactions, it leaves ears and thoughts seriously contented.
Formed in 2010, the band were soon tucking successful and increasingly acclaimed shows with the likes of Devil Sold His Soul, Feed the Rhino, ACODA, Heart of a Coward, Carcer City, and While She Sleeps under their live belts. Obolus in turn raked up eager attention and support from fans and media alike as the band spread their presence across a national landscape, backing its release and continuing thereafter with a live presence which has, like the band itself, constantly grown in stature. The time between recordings has also seen the line-up of guitarist Jamie Steadman, bassist David Bartlett, and drummer Lewis Niven joined by new vocalist Carl Brown, his linking up coming around the time of their first offerings release. It is a unit going from strength to creative strength as evidenced swiftly by hopeisnowhere.
The thick atmospheric embrace of Irebot starts things off; it’s opening smog of sonic intrigue instantly offering a portentous air which the accompanying fiery shimmer of guitar only accentuates. It is a mere whisper though against the swiftly joining tempest of heavy throaty bass, intensively probing beats, and the expanding raw caress of guitar. The vocal squalls of Brown rage in the background initially, adding to the intimidating texture of the sounds before stepping forward and unveiling his full lyrical and emotional ire. It is not a dramatic opening to the album but a richly intriguing one already showing fresh creative flair and skills in the band. The song continues to build a challenging tempest of sound and emotion, but even at over three minutes seems over before it has truly begun, though that is soon a passed thought as Glass Veil imposes itself on the senses. The imagination of leading the listener into the deeper background and far distance of a song is repeated again here and works a treat, implying real depth to not only the composing but the emotion of the lyrical and impassioned narrative. For the main though it is a thunderous assault built on the rhythmic ferocity and tenacity of Bartlett and Niven and coloured and shaped by the highly impressive imagination of Steadman’s guitar enterprise.
That is the template for all encounters within the album, an explosive and riveting base from which the even more ravenous tones and dark antagonism of Hollow Hands breeds its creative fury next. At ease whether surging with nostrils flared or stalking ears, the track roars over and brawls with the senses under the malicious scowling assault of Brown who does not venture into great diversity in his delivery but avoids being a wearing, predictable factor in the album’s proposal.
The Illusion of Choice instantly enthrals ears with its opening melodic elegance and atmospheric calm, a warmer expression and adventure which endures the lustier barracking of rhythms and riffs to emerge again with just as transfixing potency. Eventually it has to succumb to the heavier intent and aggression but is always there simmering potently beneath the surface giving sparkling glimpses from time to time in the surrounding turbulence. It is a fascinating merger of light and dark, beauty and aural pestilence installing an early pinnacle in the album; one backed almost as potently by the predatory trespass of Souldrinker. It also draws in mouth-watering melodic grooving and hooks into a maelstrom of rancor and hostility but cannot quite match its predecessor because that melodic enticement is too similar to that blossoming in the previous song. This is something which affects the whole album, many elements repeated in varying shades and used well but at times defusing the chance of some tracks being truly unique proposals within the release. In saying that, thick swamps of sludgy sounds, vitriolic rhythmic shards, and inhospitable sonic imagination only temper and help avoid any repetition being a real issue within songs so it is not a massive issue.
The melodic calm of the album’s title track is indeed one individual beauty, its smouldering elegance the eye of the storm which takes up again with the outstanding and savage onslaught of The Afflicted. Courting an oppressive doom bred gait and intensity around its sonic swing and rhythmic plundering of the senses, the song provides another major highlight whilst spewing vocal antipathy and creative invention with increasing contagion before the venting bellow of Black Cloud and the merciless Blue Pill add their impacting winds in the emotionally erosive storm of the album. Both inflame ears and imagination if without reaching the heights of the song, but each only add to the weight and potency of the release, with the second of the two especially gripping attention with its keen and more varied vocal assault amidst bestial menace.
The dramatic March the Flock is an anthemic trap of rancorous riffs and hooks aligned to bone splintering beats and spiteful vocal calls. It is another putting its creative and vicious head above others upon the album, whilst the closing A Fictional Sound explores many of the same impressing elements this time twisting them into an acrimonious but thoroughly tempting incitement, a description which sums up the whole of hopeisnowhere perfectly.
As it started, the album ends on an explosive and thrilling plateau. It dips a little in the middle and as mentioned certain songs miss a certain element or spark to ignite personal passions consistently, but when tracks do they show that Lay Siege is one of the UK’s brightest and potentially powerful propositions.
hopeisnowhere is available now via Lifeforce Records @ http://www.lifeforcerecords.com/store/
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