Introducing: Fort Hope

When neon-coated electro-hunks My Passion called it a day after seven glorious years, my synthy little heart was well and truly broken. I, like many others, had taken My Passion to heart and spent most of my disposable income shadowing them around the country from show to shining show. So, when the inevitable ‘we’ve moved onto pastures new’ statement surfaced, I was left with two blisteringly good albums, a stack of promo CDs, good memories and a huge, swirling, lyric tattoo. When My Passion were good, they were phenomenal; their throbbing synths and roaring choruses could make the dead dance. After a Kerrang! cover, some lucrative support slots and a delightfully homoerotic ‘golden tour’ (shirtless guys and gold body paint; you had to be there), it seemed that My Passion’s upward trajectory was to continue indefinitely. But then came the silence, the departure of long-standing guitarist John Be (and subsequent employment of Andé D’Mello) and two small festival sets. Kerrang! soon moved on like the fickle mistress it is; shifting its focus towards other visual-centric bands such as Yashin and Fearless Vampire Killers. My Passion ended their reign, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a death rattle. A disappointing performance at Hitchin’s Rhythms of the World festival (where the sound quality could be replicated by placing a bucket on your head and throwing yourself down an elevator shaft) was followed by a prolonged period of silence and then the inevitable; official split via social media. A statement of clichés, followed by a slew of sad emoticons; this wasn’t the crazy hammer-to-the-heart group I fell in love with.
But then came the cryptic tweets; January 13th was a big day. I, like many others, held my breath and hoped for something other than the announcement of yet another small clothing line. Thankfully, the ‘big reveal’ was Fort Hope; a new, far more radio-friendly project from four previous My Passion members. Essentially, everyone except former lead vocalist Laurence Rene. Rene’s absence in Fort Hope is very much the elephant in the room, and I hate to be the arsehole to point it out, but here we are. Was Laurence ostracised, or was his DJing his true passion? (pardon the pun). Was this the reason for My Passion’s demise? The internet is alive with presumptions and conjecture, all of which is hard to ignore. Before one even clicks on Fort Hope’s ‘play’ button, it’d be easy to presume that this would be My Passion 2.0. Same synths, different day. Five seconds in and your preconceptions are not only shattered, but thrown into a blender and strapped to a passing horse. Fort Hope are, in the nicest way, the antithesis of all that My Passion was. Gone are the incomprehensibly bizarre lyrics, gone is the heavy electro influence and gone is the relentless, upbeat dance element. The keyboards have been packed away with all previous pomp and ceremony. Everything has been stripped back to pure, raw musicianship; this isn’t so much as a rebirth as an entirely different beast.
‘Control’ is the only track widely available online, and although it can’t speak for the rest of their music, it certainly acts as a showcase of all Fort Hope’s individual talents and the burgeoning potential of them as a collective. Featuring previous My Passion members in their usual positions (Andé D’Mello – Guitar, Jamie Nicholls – Drums, Simon Rowlands – Bass), the most noticeable difference is with Jon Gaskin. In My Passion over the years, he set his hand to drums, guitar, keyboards/synths and finally, singing. Gaskin is a veritable polymath in the music world. He can turn his hand to seemingly any instrument with impressive results, yet his true talent was made all the more evident in My Passion’s final album ‘Inside this Machine’. Gaskin’s added vocals lifted the entire album. His enviable natural tone and control was made to shine, not to play second fiddle to another vocalist.
In Fort Hope, or more directly, in ‘Control’, his voice is presented raw and naked and is, surprise surprise, bloody fantastic. ‘Control’ begins with exposed vocals, but soon weaves itself an iron web; beautiful and delicate, but strong and well crafted. The track retains its Gentle and tentative sense, but begins to command attention with each bar and phrase. As the song progresses into a thundering chorus, parallels can be soon drawn with the stylings of Young Guns and Mallory Knox. While they all possess a similar sound, ‘Control’ bears a sense of maturity and sincerity that’s hard to replicate. The melody is catchy as hell, the lyrics are well considered and the simple guitar line couldn’t be sweeter if it was remade at Cadbury’s. Finally, and refreshingly, the bass and drums are used as perfect devices to fatten up growing verses and rousing choruses. The falling harmonies in the vocal line ‘out of control’ are so powerful, but so perfectly measured, that any band caught listening would soon find themselves with an attack of the green-eyed monster. Instrumentally, everything is equal; there are no indulgent trills, fills or solos. There really is no fat to trim.
If there ever was a perfect way to rise from the ashes, then Fort Hope not only achieved it, but tore it up, made sweet, sweet love to it and put it on a plinth. If ‘Control’ is the shape of things to come, then I think we might just see the creation of the world’s new favourite band.

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