Providing not only a heavy metal bred roar but equally an adventure thick historical education, Over The Hills is the debut album from British quintet Forlorn Hope. It is a release borne of creative instincts, keen interests, and talent spun craft and an encounter which leaves you feeling like you are potentially looking in on the first chapter of a band destined to majorly flourish.
Hailing from Merseyside, Forlorn Hope gave notice of things to come with a self-titled first EP in 2018, a release which added to a growing reputation sparked by an impressive live presence which subsequently saw them perform at the Northern Symphony Festival and in the Merseyside heat of the national Metal to the Masses competition as well as earn support slots alongside Raven and Eleine. It is easy to see and expect the band facing far greater opportunities and acclaim in the wake of the release of Over The Hills; its blend of classic and heavy metal with other hues of goodness a rich and rousing temptation even for appetites right here which do not instinctively navigate to those particular flavours of sound.
A collection of tracks recalling stories of horror and heroism from the Peninsular War of 1807-1814, Over The Hills is as lead singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Simpson tells: “… a blazing, heavy metal tribute to one of the most fascinating chapters in military history. It represents the realisation of a concept several years in the making, and the culmination of countless hours of work.” Its intricacies and intensive endeavour align with meticulously researched lyrics and imaginatively layered sound alike yet equally each track provides an anthemic force echoing the heroic and blood strewn drama of that moment in history.
A melodically wired, suspenseful and familiarly toned Introduction leads straight into the majestic lures of Vive L’Empereur. Set around the rise and conquests of protagonist Napoleon Bonaparte, the track is as foreboding as it is captivating. Within its walls the guitar of Alex Bishop weaves a web of intrigue amidst fiery tempting as Simpson’s vocals potently narrate as throughout threat and enticement entangle, the track relishing the animated keys of Jade McKenna and the break out of group chants.
It is a magnetic full start to the album but quickly eclipsed by Rifles and its tribute to legendary British sharpshooters, the 95th Rifles. The rhythmic canter of bassist John Roughley and drummer Danny Kelly instantly consumed limbs and energy, Simpson’s vocal lead sparking throat and spirit while keys again stir the imagination as guitars connect all with their animated and skilfully cast riffs and threads.
As Talavera instils its own stirring presence and War in the Shadows springs its furtive yet incisive dynamics, ears and album continued to unite with keen appetite; the first a boisterous gallop with nostrils flared and melodic instincts inflamed upon a rhythmically driven charge and its successor a prowling and trenchant trespass thick with imagination entangling hooks and massive galvanic rhythms.
With their combined prowess proving seriously compelling, the individual endeavour and craft of the band is just as potent and at times seriously striking as proven yet again within the tenacious theatre of The Eagle Hunters and the vigorous anthemic assault of Die Hard, the latter unleashing a chorus and aggression sure to inflame any battlefield let alone venue.
The enticing way Forlorn Hope aligns fierce at times almost feral hostility with melodic fire and elegance is no better highlighted than within the tantalising Badajoz. Its portentous calm before the storm beginnings is pure captivation and only reinvigorated by the musically interpreted oncoming assail on the city before Man of Secrets, Man of Honour shares a riveting homage to Colquhoun Grant; another track which freely manipulated body and vocal chords let alone imagination.
The pair of Masterstrike, with its own particular cauldron of sound and combat as well as an inescapable battle cry, and the equally dramatic Vitoria bring further ear enticing campaigns of persuasion to the album while the outstanding Over the Hills and Far Away provides a glorious melodic/acoustic fired finale and tribute to the lost and fallen, heroes and antagonists shared before it.
It is not quite the close of Over The Hills though as a great bonus in the shape of the song Forlorn Hope brings down the album’s dramatic curtain; it another moment when vocal roars and spirit driven contributions with its creators was inevitable.
Classic heavy metal is not generally the source of instinctive pleasure here at The RR but Over The Hills went down a storm from its first breath which tells all.
Over The Hills is out now @ https://forlornhope.uk/store
Pete RingMaster 02/08/2019
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