Manchester Orchestra's fourth studio effort, 2014's Cope, is a heavy, often dark, yet incredibly melodic album that finds the Atlanta outfit delving deep into its post-hardcore roots. Recorded in part at the band's home studio -- which is actually just lead singer Andy Hull's parents' house, where he recorded the band's debut as a teenager -- Cope follows up the group's ambitious 2011 concept album Simple Math. As with that album, Cope features Hull's longstanding themes of anger, pain, loss, and insecurity, both personal and professional. But where Simple Math found the band investigating a more varied tonal palette, here they stick to a sheer wall of electric guitar grit and grayscale harmonics. Which is, of course, the point, as the band wanted to adhere to a cohesive sound for the whole album. Which isn't to say that the album is predictable. On the contrary, Manchester Orchestra have proven themselves to be a fluid band capable of bashing you over the head with heavy metal riffs one second and lifting you cloudward with a single two-line hook the next. Cope is no exception, and cuts like the leadoff "Top Notch" and the slowly insistent "Trees" pummel you with a brick layer's precision and stick in your head like hardened concrete. In that sense, Manchester Orchestra's sound on Cope brings to mind Tool's aggressive intensity combined with Built to Spill's ceaseless gift for inventive guitar layering. Similarly, tracks like "Choose You," "Girl Harbor," and "Every Stone" are propulsive anthems with emotive, hooky melodies that grab your heart just as much as your ear. There is a hard-won maturity to Cope, as if Hull and his band -- closing in on their thirties, still grinding out their musical dreams in the house Hull grew up in -- set out to make the last great post-hardcore record. That might be a somewhat lofty goal, but Cope is more than just the sound of a band getting by; it's the sound of Manchester Orchestra at their best.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar