Polish Melodic Death Metal quartet Across The Shade come at us with a simple named offering for their debut full-length release. “Hope” is an 8 track, sub-40 minute Melodic Death Metal attack which you could easily mistake for being something which comes from the northern reaches of Europe rather than the eastern reaches, with most Polish DM bands we hear being of a more intense kind; Behemoth, Vader, Decapitated and Hate being big proponents of the more blackened, technical and straight up styles of Death Metal. Across The Shade, with their more Scandinavian feel seemingly take their cues from the Gothenburg school of sound – In Flames and Dark Tranquillity being two of the easier to identify stylistic influences in their sound, with Finns Omnium Gatherum and Children Of Bodom also being somewhat similar with their sound and influences. With what promises, on paper at least to be a dynamic and hard hitting, fast paced assault loaded with riffs and melodies, let’s see if it is worth having some hope for.

Short answer: Yes.

In the approximately 38-minute runtime of this release, you will get 8 tracks loaded with sounds which echo the prime of the late 90’s and early 2000’s Melodic Death Metal approach Scandinavia was known for. Soaring melodic leads delivered with precision over moderately paced to furiously fast galloping pedal-tone friendly riffs and big stabs of low end heavy chords, fiercely growled vocals, a tight rhythm section and strong keyboard/synth augmentation which doesn’t overpower any sections of the music, merely provide a solid background for the melodies to work with and to add some atmospheric impact to tracks. This release easily follows in the footsteps of “Whoracle” by In Flames, “Damage Done” by Dark Tranquility, “Stuck Here On Snakes Way” by Omnium Gatherum and “Hatecrew Deathroll” by Children Of Bodom. The balance of the aggressive death metal with the melodic components of the tracks creating both a framework for musical direction and additional melodic voicing to the progressions puts this firmly in the grounds of a solid release on all fronts. It’s not genre defining, nor is it simply fodder or ‘also ran’.

the opening charge of “Hope” sets the pace of the record with its rapid charge. The blistering pace of the melodic lead and thundering riff orientated rhythm hits hard and as the rest of the track follows through with the raw vocal assault. It’s nothing overly complex, just several distinct patterns and sections which all flow well with each other and have an easy to follow progression which works fine, a formula which is repeated across all tracks of the release. Whether it is the slower, more melodic leaning tracks like “Winter Is Coming” which focus more on the intricate weaving of melodic leads and atmospheric synths boosting steady chords, or the more explosive natured tracks like the self-titled “Across The Shade” which favours a high impact delivery of pace, a solid rhythm section and bursts of thunder.

Whilst the band do have the sound and the style nailed down, there is a lack of identity. Yes, this is a debut record and it is in a style where it is hard to carve out your own niche and persona, but whilst this release does offer hope with how it turns out and how it isn’t just another bland, faceless entity in the crowd, it just needs something else to make it more noticeable. It shows a band with potential and talent but also a band who need that spark or bold decision to allow them to make the next step forward and have their music really stand out and be worth paying more attention too. This would certainly help the 38 minutes of music feel like it hasn’t totally flown by and give more to remember it by.

In all, “Hope” offers what it is called, in content and the future for the band.

(7.5/10 Fraggle)