Fire at Will? Who's Will? And what did he do that we should be firing at him? With a title like Hoping for the Best...Expecting the Worst, you'd assume they'd be firing at Alphaville and their attempts to stay "Forever Young".
Actually, Fire at Will is a French hardcore band. Musically, a very good French hardcore band. But unfortunately, still a French hardcore band, which is the main problem with Hoping for the Best...Expecting the Worst. Their grip of the English language is not as developed as contemporary Francophone counterparts Nine Eleven, while their vocals are more decipherable than, say, No Guts No Glory. The result is that while the lyrics are not a complete massacre of the English language, they are distracting enough to substantially hinder what would otherwise be a great hardcore record.
Everything else on Hoping for the Best...Expecting the Worst is solid, if not splendid. From the riffs to the tones, the guitars set the foundation, at the same time punishing and dynamic. The energetic drums temper vibrant breakdowns with unremitting circle-pit rhythms, while vocalist Quentin Rettig delivers an impressive display of passion. U.S. bands like American Nightmare and the Hope Conspiracy probably lent some influence from a songwriting perspective, though there are more solos, breakdowns and quiet, meandering moments here than the Deathwish scene generally offers.
Without dwelling on the lyrics too much, the following are some examples to demonstrate what's holding the band back. Take "These Days" to start: "What happened to these days? / It seems I'm lost on a tragic way / I cannot wake up from my nightmares / It's only fears that I share." So it's obviously not terrible. There are plenty of American artists with worse lyrics than those. But in hardcore, where words are so important, it's hard to connect with a song like "It's Nothing Personal": "How do you feel when you wake up and you can not face the past? / When you're the lonely boy whom everyone forget the name? / Four walls of hell in an empty room where the sun never lights in / Everyone took his distance and I never could bring it back." I mean, could you imagine a gang vocal effort of that in broken English?
There may be a kind of double-standard that bands need to sing in English to reach a broad market, but even those from non-English countries are expected to do it well. Of course, bands like Refused and Millencolin have thrived under such conditions, while Wyzo, Gauze and Los Crudos gained fame while defying the norm.
Final summation: This record is pretty darn good from a musical standpoint. It's a bit long and the lyrics are kind of distracting, but it's good hardcore and any aficionado should be pleased with the sound Fire at Will has developed.