English metalcore quartet, This Dying Hour, know the meaning of fortitude. Formed in 2005 and emerging from the same era as Architects, Bleed From Within and Bury Tomorrow, they released one EP in 2007 and split up before reforming in 2016 to deliver their debut album. Just as they started to gather momentum, tragedy struck when frontman, Dave Pickup, died in a hit-and-run incident and founding member, Sean Crossey, lost his battle against cancer. Most bands would have cursed their miserable luck and capitulated to the fatalistic belief that things were not meant to be. But This Dying Hour regrouped in their… uh, dying hour and decided in 2020 to recruit new personnel for a new era. Fire and the Blind is the product of this heroic effort and well worth the blood and tears.
Spare a thought for new vocalist, Gaz Ward, who takes on the trepid task of replacing Pickup. His challenge is a mammoth one, yet he transplants his personality and character onto the music like a thespian who uses his idiosyncratic charisma to breathe new life into a Shakespeare play. You know within ten seconds of opening track, ‘Cornered’, that Ward’s declaration of “I’m supposed to tow the line” is a message that This Dying Hour will not rest in a comfortable status quo. This is music with the technical hooks of Erra and the mood of Tool’s Undertow. Listen to those drop-tuned guitars cascade beyond the top two strings and into prog metal territory at every opportunity. Ward is part hardcore screamer, part Maynard James Keenan, and all vitriol. To all the budding vocalists out there, here is a person you can learn from, whether it be the way he roasts a falsetto note into a fry scream or the manner in which he delivers a fist-clenching chorus.
Metalcore is now unrecognisable from the glory days of Killswitch Engage and Hatebreed and wins few plaudits in the metal underground. We should be clear here: This Dying Hour are not a metalcore artist like one of those My Space scene bands from back in the day. Their music has more in common with Karnivool than Asking Alexandria. The title track is a case in point. ‘Fire and the Blind’ is an anthem that dances in the pocket and glides through the mosh pit in its heavier moments. This is a band that take the hard edge of groove metal and the bass-heavy churn of Helmet and Faith No More. Ward’s chorus vocals glitter with the same melancholy head voice as Haken’s Ross Jennings.
‘Silent Voices and Broken Scars’ could be from the latest Caligula’s Horse album, which should give you an indication of the standard of vocal arrangements and rhythmic brilliance on this EP. How they elevate two minutes and fifty-seven seconds to an epic level raises the main question of this record – why is this music so enigmatic and refreshing when no songs breach the four-minute mark? The riffs are chunky and the solos absent, yet the guitarwork is illuminous and intricate, like Roman Ibramkhalilov of Jinjer. Closing track, ‘Consequence’, captures the spirit of the early Tool records but pulsates with the urgency and emotion of the latest Arcaeon album. Be under no illusions – this is heavy stuff with plenty of aggression. Ward’s lung power is impressive in its power and variation, yet he can also switch to a heroic melody like Daniel Tompkins of Tesseract when the song needs it.
Given their circumstances, any new record was always going to be a triumph from This Dying Hour, but chapter three of their career promises great things ahead. There’s no need to be sentimental or sympathetic here; the band deserve praise on merit alone. Welcome back, boys!
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Fire and the Blind, Consequence
Suggested Further Listening: Tool – Undertow (1993), Arcaeon – Cascadence (2021), Karnivool – Awake (2009)