The Hope Conspiracy- Tools of Oppression/Rule by Deception (Album Review)

June 6, 2024


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Throughout hardcore and punk there has been numerous bands reuniting over the last few years, usually starting off as an anniversary tour or show for a particular album or their discography that would sometimes lead to new material.  But other groups opt to just return with little warning and pick up where they left off, even if the gap has been for a decade or longer.  That’s exactly what Boston’s The Hope Conspiracy did last year when they dropped the four song Confusion/Chaos/Misery EP with little advance notice, and it seemed even more singularly focused on brute force than 2006’s Death Knows Your Name.  The whirlwind ten minutes left me wanting even more, and fortunately the group hasn’t kept me waiting for too long as Tools of Oppression​/​Rule by Deception dropped with the same force as the bomb on the album’s cover at the end of May.  Here The Hope Conspiracy once again blends their more straightforward hardcore punk with slower, bleak moments that seem to only get more harrowing with each passing listen.  It’s a natural step forward for a group that seems to only be getting more aggressive and destructive with age and gives listeners plenty of reason to get battered and bruised.

Two of the four songs from Confusion/Chaos/Misery EPhave made it onto the album, and they flow seamlessly with the rest of the material.  The EP title track and “A Struggle for Power” serve as shorter bursts of all-out fury in between some of the other ideas, but they are still just as memorable as they were in November and the fact that the riffs stand out so much despite the more straightforward format demonstrates how strong The Hope Conspiracy are as songwriters.  There are brief respites from the pummeling riffs and metallic sheen at key moments, but even when this happens the sound is so dark and tense that it doesn’t feel like it gives listeners that much of a chance to catch their breath.  Opener “Those Who Gave Us Yesterday” is a slow burn that starts off with denser riffs over air raid sirens before unleashing extremely heavy and chunky riffs that feel a bit more crust punk alongside melodies that give slight hints of rock ‘n roll.  The subtle melodies are perfectly balanced with the roaring hardcore riffs, and this is also true on songs like “The West is Dead” and “The Specter Looms”.  These two tracks end the album in spectacular fashion.  The former moves from a brisk pace to a slower build-up, ultimately exploding into a huge peak that is sure to make anyone want to start an impromptu mosh pit, while the latter lets that sense of dread permeate the air.  A few of the shorter songs near the middle do blend together a bit with their more direct, aggressive approach, but the amount of stand-out riffs and nuances on the rest of the material makes up for it.

I talked about how intense Kevin Baker’s vocal work has been in my review of the EP last year, and that’s still the case for the album.  Baker’s screams, growls, and everything in between have only seemed to get more intense and violent with each year and the production values on Tools of Oppression​/​Rule by Deception makes his performance sound absolutely massive.  There are subtle variations to his pitch, but this is the type of scream that could become repetitive if songs were too long or there weren’t natural pauses.  This is another area where The Hope Conspiracy is able to maximize the intensity, as the shorter bursts give all emphasis to the vocals while the longer ones have plenty of instrumental build-ups.  Some of the other bands in this genre have lost some of their earlier steam, but that’s definitely not the case here and Baker seems to have only gotten more in your face.

Confusion/Chaos/Misery felt like a good teaser to what this year’s full length has to offer, and it’s clear that the Hope Conspiracy has returned with a bang.  They’ve managed to deliver a considerable amount of brute force while still having specific riffs that stand out over repeat listens, plus some of the slower sections really start to get under your skin.  Where others in the genre have seemed too focused on trying to recapture their past ideas, The Hope Conspiracy keeps moving forward and getting even more bleak and aggressive with age, making this another highlight of 2024.  Tools of Oppression/Rule by Deception is available from Deathwish Inc.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg