The Color Morale
Someone please help hopecore. It feels like after all these years there is no longer hope for any -core aspect of the genre. As previously seen with We Came As Romans’ 2015 self-titled record, the world will now see The Color Morale follow in the same footsteps. While up keeping their staple of arguably cheesy, yet highly positive and supportive lyrics, The Color Morale has taken a turn towards more melodic, mainstream-friendly radio rock with their latest release, Desolate Divine.
The most notable topic of change in this record is the change of vocal roles. Frontman Garret Rapp has forsaken unclean vocals entirely, giving the job over to rhythm guitarist Aaron Saunders. Now, while The Color Morale has never been known exactly for their prowess in uncleans, the role switch does add some questionable traits to the record. For one thing, uncleans are significantly lacking, which is tragic since when they are utilized they are extremely impressive. The lows on “Clip Paper Wings” and “Home Bittersweet Home” are the absolute money notes of both of those tracks.
The other noteworthy issue I have with Rapp refusing to do uncleans on this record is that his emotional connections with each song seem severed. Certain feelings and attitudes are added to tracks when a vocalist is literally screaming the lyrics, and with that aspect gone, Rapp sounds more like a pop rock frontman singing tracks he had a ghostwriter hand over to him. In other words, he seems completely devoid of all the more in-depth lyrical content he is delivering. See the single “Walls;” there’s a blatant disconnect between the delivery of the crisp, melodic clean vocals and the despairing lines “I built these walls to keep the outside from me/And I’ll fight to stay in the hell of my own mind/It’s safer on the inside.”
Desolate Divine has a real Thirty Seconds To Mars vibe going on. Every track carries this sort of epic movie soundtrack ambiance. “Lonesome Soul” is a super catchy, alt rock jam serving as a solid opener, but setting the stage for a lot of redundancies in the songs that follow. “Trail of Blood” serves as another example for this cinematic sound. I keep thinking of the remake of Tron when I hear it. And while the uncleans are seldom heard on this track, the drums, too, become problematic in their basic simplicity. The fills are lazy and back beat is noticeably lacking in comparison to the rest of the record.
Lyrics in hopecore are typically always cheesy. And for me, I tend to forgive that if the songs are strong in other aspects. Unfortunately, that was hard to do with Desolate Divine. “It’s okay to not be okay/It’s okay to feel this way,” Rapp sings on the closing track “Keep Me In My Body.” It’s such a cliché line that it just feels like a halfhearted effort. The same can be said of the two preceding songs, “Broken Vessel” and “Fauxtographic Memory” which both rely on the use of “woahs” to carry the tracks. It all just feels formulaic and disingenuous, as if the band wanted to make a record just because they had to make a record, not because they put their hearts and souls into it. And that’s not a good image for hopecore.
If you’re looking for an edgy album with well-laid out lyrical content, Desolate Divine is not for you. If you want to add a generic pop rock album to your music library with two to three bangers, then pick this record up, but don’t except the album of the year by any means. (Natasha Van Duser)