Last week, I wrote about a discussion on Magnetic North that I had with my friend Jason Ford, the foremost authority on Hopesfall’s final album (amongst people that I know and who listen to the band, that is). He felt it was the culmination of their decade as a band, in spite of being such a deviation from their early work, because it embodied the spirit of maturation as a group.
In no uncertain terms, Hopesfall’s second full-length album The Satellite Years (2002), is for me their best work. I base this largely on the fact that it contains what I feel to be the band’s best ever song, regardless of their rotating cast and crew of members (cycling through a dozen or so bandmates through their 10 years as a group).
That song is “The Bending,” and before I go any further, you need to listen to it –
“The Bending” is all you need to know about Hopesfall. At just under 7 minutes, it contains all of the elements for which the band came to be known: huge, pounding drums, angular guitars with plenty of feedback, a couple of different breakdown sections, ferocious screaming offset by harmonies, and open landscape for ambient-minded interludes.
It is the most complete Hopesfall song of their entire catalogue.
Thematically, “The Bending” keeps in line with much of The Satellite Years: hopeful, but doubting. Cryptic, but discernible. What it lacks in breadth, it makes up for in heart. And since it’s only 60 words long, here it is in its entirety:
This is just the in-between.
The point where worries can shatter dreams.
This is that look like “I’m going to throw it all away.”
This is infatuation’s best kept secret,
and those are the hovering eyes that glide and glare.
You’re the most best kept secret.
So not another word of this conscious bending conversation.
I’ll find it before I revolve around the tips of their tongues.
The song serves as a symbol both for the band’s past and future styles, and as a fork in the road for the group’s members.
The predecessor to Satellite Years was a tremendous EP called No Wings to Speak Of, released one year prior in 2001. That EP was the last recording for vocalist Doug Venable. Beginning with this album, the energetic yet cerebral Jay Forrest took on vocal duties, backed by guitarist Ryan Parrish’s sweet harmonies.
As the last song of Satellite Years, “The Bending” is the send-off to the band’s past. Beginning with its successor, 2004’s A Types, Hopesfall transitioned to a genre and style they dubbed “spacecore,” which is a playful euphemism for ambient post-hardcore.
But it’d be nigh-impossible for me to untangle from “The Bending” because of its lasting impact on me. And as I referenced last week on Magnetic North, the group’s performance of the song at Hellfest 2003 remains one of my favorite “I only wish I could have been there to see it” live experiences.
Nothing on A Types or Magnetic North comes close. But keep in mind that I don’t want to boil down or diminish the rest of this band’s entire discography based on one song. There’s a lot to like on their debut, The Frailty of Words. All 4 tracks on No Wings are jams. And yes, there are 9 other songs on Satellite Years.
Instrumental opener “Andromeda” acts as the prologue for Satellite Years. Songs like the spastic “Waitress” or “A Man Exits” (which could be a partner track to “April Left with Silence”) recapture the spirit of the No Wings to Speak Of EP.
“Redshift” is a stunning ambient interlude, and embraces the group’s self-imposed spacecore tag with grace. “Only the Clouds” is one of the last songs to embody the band’s transient form during this period: ambient soundscapes prefaced by a jarring plane of screaming.
The only dud on the album is “Escape Pod for Intangibles” because of its My Bloody Valentine-esque vocals. Which isn’t to say I don’t like MBV – I do. But it seems so downright out of its element here, like an experiment or perhaps inside joke that went too far. It’s the one black sheep of up through their first two albums and EP.
Last month also marked the date when, two years ago, the group played two reunion shows in their home state of North Carolina. I toyed with the idea of attending because of the group’s impact on me as a fan, but sadly was unable to do so.
Which brings me to my quarterly reminder of the day: Go see the bands that you love. Right now. If you have the chance, this instant. Don’t wait.
Yeah, it might be a bitch to deal with Ticketmaster fees, or you might have to drive a ways to get there. But do it. My favorite bands have all but come and gone for good, and there are some I never got the opportunity to see, the state where I live notwithstanding (and in light of recent events, be damned).
If you have the opportunity to go to a show, make every effort to do so. Before it’s too late.
From Hopesfall’s The Satellite Years, this is “A Man Exits” –
Standout tracks: “Waitress” and “The Bending”
Weakest track: “Escape Pod for Intangibles”
RIYL: Spacecore (their term, not mine), post-hardcore, emo. Early Norma Jean, The Number Twelve Looks Like You,