Review: The River ‘A Hollow Full Of Hope’

Four years ago The River released the incredible Vessels Into White Tides which was followed by both the lockdown recorded Violet Violent Sine Waves EP that featured acoustic renditions of tracks from the aforementioned record and the Different Dirges ’03 – ’05 compilation of early demos. Since then, things have gone a bit quiet, until now, with the band releasing their long-awaited fourth full-length album A Hollow Full Of Hope.

The River 'A Hollow Full Of Hope' Artwork
The River ‘A Hollow Full Of Hope’ Artwork

For those in need of a little refresher, a four-piece, The River formed around 1999 and are from Beckingham which is located in the London borough of Bromley. The promotional notes state that the album can be traced back to 2005’s Different Ways To Be Haunted EP but also represents a stride forward from Vessels Into White Tides. Indicative perhaps of an acknowledgement of their past but with a firm eye to the future. Promising stuff, I can’t wait to dig in…

Many bands love to start with a bang, going straight for the jugular from the off for maximum impact before easing up a little, The River aren’t most bands. Instead, we are greeted with the warm and soulful neo-folk of Fading, a blissful piece that features acoustic guitar and piano. If you’ve been following the band’s career closely, you may have picked up on their fondness for the softer side of the musical spectrum, which is more than OK with me.

There was always a dreamy shoegaze influence to Christian Leitch and co’s sound and this is evident once more on Exits. Shades of My Bloody Valentine are present, albeit a little more subdued and not quite as ear-bleeding, along with elements of post-rock too as the band have always seemed more interested in musical exploration than just the standard rock song format. There is a subtlety to the sound as well as an emotive core which is a bit of an anomaly in a genre more inclined towards weed, wizards and old-school horror movies (there’s nothing wrong with these of course).

there is an aching beauty that will keep listeners aurally dazzled and hooked…

Tiny Ticking Clocks is appropriately named with a precision you could set your watch by, in a manner of speaking. Light of touch, it features violins and a sound not totally unlike what bands such as Low and Galaxie 500 were putting out with the slower tempos, minimalist instrumentation, and subdued lyrical performances (to quote Wikipedia). Its relatively easy to play sloppy at a thousand miles an hour, mistakes can often get disguised in a whirlwind of noise, chaos and distortion, but playing slower requires a greater amount of skill and talent, both of which The River possess in spades and as is brilliantly demonstrated here.

A Vignette is the album’s longest track at over ten minutes and possibly the most familiar sounding, feeling as it does like a natural continuation of where the band left off on their last ‘proper’ full-length album. Although melancholy in tone, there is an aching beauty that will keep listeners aurally dazzled and hooked. From the longest to the shortest, at four minutes Hollowful is an instrumental that concludes the album on a sombre note, allowing you enough time and space to reflect on what you’ve just listened to.

The River have always been more about texture and atmosphere than blunt force trauma and A Hollow Full Of Hope is yet a further demonstration of this. If anything, the album sees the band distancing themselves a little further from their doom roots in their ultimate quest to satisfy themselves creatively. Welcome back, you’ve been missed.

Label: Cavernous Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills