REVIEW: The Color Morale – ‘Hold On Pain Ends’

color morale

Artist: The Color Morale
Album: Hold On Pain Ends
Genre: Post-Hardcore
Label: Fearless Records

The Color Morale has been astonishingly prolific since signing to Rise Records back in 2009 as Hold On Pain Ends marks their fourth full-length, but first since making the jump from Rise to Fearless Records.

Typically, the concern with bands that churn out records this quickly is that they’re simply throwing together another 10-12 tracks that follow a familiar formula, cashing in while they can — because, let’s face it, you never know how long your buzz is going to last these days. But in the case of The Color Morale, their efficiency seems to be driven by a sense of urgency, not only to continue spreading their message of overcoming thoughts of suicide and self-doubt, but to further the evolution of their sound.

Despite the label change, Hold On Pain Ends is lyrically a continuation of Know Hope, an album that was released just 18 months ago. And sonically, the band has come a long way from the stock metalcore sound we heard on their first two records. The heavy grooves are still present, particularly on tracks like album opener “Damnaged” and “Lifeline (Left to Write),” but more than anything, Hold on Pain Ends seems to recognize what most of us figured out several albums ago — Garret Rapp’s soulful, deeply impassioned vocals are truly what sets The Color Morale apart from their peers.

I have no quantifiable data to back up this claim (duh) but it sure feels like Rapp is singing a lot more on this record than on any of The Color Morale’s prior releases, and the instrumentals feel largely subservient to his vocals. Know Hope introduced a new, more raw approach to Rapp’s delivery than the standard alternating scream/croon found on the band’s first two releases. With Hold On Pain Ends, Rapp seems to have harnessed this attack — and quite simply, his delivery forms a much tighter bond with the lyrics than ever before.

Two of the standout tracks — “Scar Issue” and “Is Happiness a Mediocre Sin?” — don’t feature a single screamed vocal, while the former, in particular, seems to venture into mainstream alt-rock territory, which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise given the band’s take on “Everlong” was the standout track of Punk Goes ’90s Vol. 2. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “Scar Issue” brought The Color Morale the same type of crossover success “All I Want” did for A Day To Remember. The song’s refrain of “Leave a mark on your world, not across your arms” rings clear and beautifully, but in a Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” sort of way that isn’t too abrasive for those who simply can’t relate with the many The Color Morale fans that inspired the track.

At this stage, it’s probably more accurate to call The Color Morale a collective than a band. The Rockford, IL outfit has endured a revolving door of guitarists and bassists throughout their existence, with Rapp and drummer Steve Carey as the lone constants after the remaining original members have all stepped down, though some have continued writing and producing for the group over the years.

As part of this collective, a few of the group’s friends have offered guest spots. “Suicide;Stigma” features an appearance from We Came As Romans vocalist Dave Stephens, but the album’s most memorable mic grab comes from Chiodos’ Craig Owens on “Developing Negative,” a track that also highlights the integration of guitarists Aaron Saunders and Devin King, who have come into their own on this release. Hold On Pain Ends marks just the second album with Saunders and King as The Color Morale’s guitar tandem, but they’ve gracefully accepted their roles as Saunders offers plenty of texture while King’s leads accentuate Rapp and Owens’ vocals without overshadowing their message of “I know some days I wish I could just erase the past / but if I hide my wounds ashamed then you’d never know we’re the same.”

“Between You and Eye” is probably the song on the album that most captures TCM’s signature sound. The track opens with a bruiser of a breakdown that promptly evolves into another piercing lead riff from King, and perhaps the record’s most poignant and uplifting chorus as Rapp sings “No one is ever going to believe in yourself but you / your imperfections make you perfect to me / so just learn to stay you.”

Over the past five years, The Color Morale have worked tirelessly to become one of the pillars of the post-hardcore genre. There isn’t a band with a closer, more intimate relationship with their fans, as Hold On Pain Ends was greatly inspired by a countless number of fans who have blessed the band with their stories over the past few years. I’m not sure how the band or their current fan base would respond to a vast expansion in their popularity, but Hold On Pain Ends suggests they better prepare for it. And if there’s a band whose message I wouldn’t mind reaching a much broader audience, it’s The Color Morale’s.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Kevin Blumeyer – follow him on Twitter

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