Know Hope is the third full length album from post hardcore Rockford, Illinois quintet The Color Morale. The album was released March 25, 2013; however Rise Records released a stream of the album on the 20th of that same month. The entire album has a combination of grinding breakdowns mixed with melodic choruses, along with the alternation of clean and hard vocals of front man Garret Rapp. Major themes on this album, as well as past ones, include religion, mental illness, and messages of positivity and hope during times of struggle. However, despite mentions of religion, the band has confirmed in the past that they are not a ‘Christian’ band. Former bassist Anthony Wick stated, “I wouldn’t label us a Christian band, but we’re guys that believe in Jesus…” Rapp appeared to have agreed that statement as in a later interview he said, “I’m just trying to do something positive for someone else, and that reaffirms a purpose in me for something right now.” The album starts out strong with ‘Burn Victims’, with lows, cleans and break downs that are nothing sort of mind blowing. Rapp’s vocal range in this song and throughout the entire album is extremely impressive. The song itself seems to be about someone who is or was a victim of some sort of abuse, at least that’s the vibe given off, and the lyrics reflect it, ‘and the start of a cycle is always the end when we are the victims’, ‘we are the victims and I am the hope. You, you are the victim and I am still learning that I can be the hope’. It’s unclear exactly the message, however, Rapp did mention in an interview with CrescendoTV that the album is an open book about his life. Song two ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, which appears to be much in the same attitude of ‘Burn’; it’s emotional, intense, very in your face and you can hear the hurt and almost the anger seethinthrough not only in Rapp’s vocals but the instruments as well. It could be labeled as a ‘break up’ song of sorts, ‘if you give up on me, then I give up on everything’ or it could go along with the apparent ‘abuse’ theme of ‘Burn’ with ‘home is where the hurt is, and no one even knows’ which the title would make perfect sense then, as often victims put on an act and hide what is happening to them.
‘Learned Behavior’ is the third track and the only single released. The official lyric video came out January 31, 2013 on Rise’s YouTube channel. This song seems to be speaking to a significant other or extremely close friend whom the speaker goes to with everything, his problems and mistakes, ‘aren’t you sick of knowing all the pain in me? Aren’t you sick from the same disease?’ But then coming back and reassuring ‘come to me with anything you’ll ever need’. The chorus is a take on an almost cliche relationship “saying” (seriously everyone has said this at some point about their life) ‘sometimes it’s good to build up walls, not to keep anyone out, but to see who cares enough to knock them down’. Now it isn’t bad, it actually flows excellently with the rest of the song. Track four ‘Living Breathing Something’ is where the religious theme seems to come in to play, with mentions of the devil along with ‘a wretch like me’ (Amazing Grace) and also ‘forgive your enemies’ (or rather, ‘as we forgive them that trespass against us’ from The Lord’s Prayer). Even though they do not label themselves as any sort of ‘religious’ band, your beliefs do work their way into your work, no matter what you do. ‘Strange Comfort’ is another lyric video, and is actually quite sad despite the intensity. The entire song seems to be about what I imagine is depression or something similar, but it’s also oddly hopeful at the same time. I can’t say for sure as I’m not in Rapp’s head, but with lyrics such as ‘I know I’m lost. But what scares me the most is I’m starting to feel at home’, and then you have ‘so when you feel your heart sink into your chest, don’t forget everything is okay in the end’. That’s seemingly what he’s trying to say. Conflicting message? Yes. Amazing song? Absolutely. ‘In Light In Me’ breaks that ‘fourth wall’ people talk about. Usually it’s mentioned with TV shows and movies, but with the opening lines ‘how am I supposed to write about hope with catchy hooks and melodies and make you sing along? Well I titled this whole album before I tried to write a song’ there had to be a fourth wall break in there somewhere. The rest of the song is inspiring, all about hope, and seems to be the inspiration for the album title, or vise versa, with the line ‘know hope in me’. Compared to the rest of the songs on the album its one of the cleanest vocally, with not many screams heard. Track seven is titled ‘Silver Lining’ and it’s very angry, and almost depressed with religious overtones. Who Rapp is angry at seems to be God as well as himself, ‘I know I disappoint you. You don’t know who I am anymore; well that makes two of us’. It’s not very obvious how the title of this song was come up with, though it almost seems as if he’s calling out so-called Christians on their crap with ‘everyone is religious only until they don’t need to be anymore. That’s not faith, no not to me.’ It’s a great song, perhaps a little discombobulated, but wonderful. ‘Steadfast’ is a track with nearly all clean vocals as well, which is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album and really shows how honestly beautiful Rapp’s voice is. The entire song is themed off of the ocean and sailing, which seems to be a common theme with bands today. This is personally one of my favorites due to the fact it is such a lovely song. ‘Hole Hearted’ speaks to the tune of not wanting to be alone. At first, the speaker is confused, they don’t want to be alone, but they want to be left alone; we all know that feeling. The breakdowns in this song are fantastic, they are throughout the entire album, but these are some of the best on the album. There were mixed comments on it from fans, most saying the vocals don’t fit the music. I can see where they’re thinking that, with the instrumentals you would expect the vocals to be a little bit harder, but that’s how it was written. ‘Saviorself’ is yet another track with seeming religious overtones. Again, Rapp seems to be angry and questioning his relationship with God ‘no opinion preserved in stained glass holds more truth to me’. The raw emotion on this track is easily felt, as well as sympathy. He’s unsure of his faith, and that’s a prominent theme in a handful of the songs on Know Hope. He’s in a ‘grey area’ as far as his faith is concerned, and almost all Christians go through that at some point; they either lose faith or find God after that from my experience. Whether you agree with his choices on being so honest with fans about his life or not, Rapp deserves respect, he’s putting his life out for the whole world, which takes balls. Track eleven is ‘Have.Will’, an incredibly inspiring song, telling the listener to believe in themselves, they’re not alone, that it’s okay to be yourself and be different ‘I understand you. You’re not evil despite why they may say’. It is yet another track with a majority of it being clean vocals, but is contrasted with heavy guitars and breakdowns. It keeps your attention while sending a great message. The twelfth and final track on Know Hope is ‘Never Enders’ and it ends the album on quite a sad note. Again, the anger and raw emotion showing through in this song just makes you want to find Rapp and give him a hug and tell him everything’s okay. The hinted at idea of abuse at the beginning of the album comes full circle with the first line ‘and I’m too abused to walk away from this’, however Rapp then says ‘if I could go back in time and change everything, I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me.’ Sometimes life gets dark, sometimes you question your faith, and Garret Rapp was bold enough to share his life with us, and that’s simply amazing.
Rating-4.5/5: Holy freaking crap. This album is just pure gold; lyrically, vocally, instrumentally, and emotionally! It hits you in all the right spots, and some of it might even make you cry. Being a Christian myself, I found it extremely brave of Rapp to share his struggles with the faith, probably knowing the backlash that could (and has) come from this; and it also tells me, and any other Christians (or whatever faith, I don’t discriminate) it’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to not know where you stand sometimes. His vocal range is amazing; to go from cleans to lows and everything in between. Instrumentally; fantastic. I could honestly go on and on about this album for days. If you haven’t at least listened to it, what are you waiting for?!
Photos By: Andrew Wendowski of MUSIC MAYHEM
Review By: Raechel Francis of MUSIC MAYHEM