When the Hope Conspiracy released the Hang Your Cross 7" EP earlier this summer, the band made sure their fans knew nothing had been lost in the band's ability to write crushing and aggressive hardcore.
What was refreshing about it was that in its short duration, it managed to stand out amongst its contemporaries. Death Knows Your Name is an exceptional release by most standards. Unfortunately, by the Hope Conspiracy's standards, it finishes with less than perfect results. Had this release carried the name of most modern hardcore albums, it would have been noted as a remarkable exception to the status quo, but it wasn't recorded by any other band -- it was recorded by the Hope Conspiracy.
Make no mistake, the Hope Conspiracy still stand out in a scene of cookie cutter drones. When compared with their peers in modern hardcore, they're at the top of their class. Death Knows Your Name pummels through its 11 tracks in just over 30 minutes, at most time leaving the listener with little time to do so much as catch their breath during the occasions in which the tempo is slowed -- which isn't very often.
What's unfortunate is that on more than a few occasions while working through Death Knows Your Name you're bound to ask yourself, "Hasn't this been done on an earlier song?" Perhaps what was so refreshing about Hang Your Cross (besides the band's return) was that it didn't have time to repeat itself.
On tracks like "So Many Pigs So Few Bullets," there's no other band I'd rather be listening to -- of any genre. The album's opening song, "They Know You Not," displays the Hope Conspiracy's fantastic ability to blend a battering ram of rhythm with a somehow harmonious undertone. Had the band been able to carry the aggression and somewhat perverted melody through the rest of the album without sometimes becoming noticeably unfocused, this could have been the album of the year. Kevin Baker's vocals are as vicious and worthy of a last breath as ever, and it's great to have him back with these musicians, despite the quality of the Bars' album.
With every bit of confidence standing in this site's review of Hang Your Cross, perhaps it would have been better for the Hope Conspiracy to release an EP and hold off on the full-length for a while and maybe take some time on the road to ripen their aggression.
The Hope Conspiracy may be the most reluctant of heroes, but they had people holding their breath for this album. While it's no doubt worth picking up, it's simply not perfect, and perfect is what their fans were hoping for. But I don't want to end this review on a negative note. Death Knows Your Name stands out amongst this year's hardcore albums and I'm sure that when 2007 rolls around, we're going to wish more hardcore albums carried the same integrity and substance as this does.