If COPE had less integrity and the money-making route had been more clearly signposted for them, the results of this debut EP could’ve been drastically different. Just looking away from the music for a moment, the London quintet have got all the hallmarks of the sleekest of Warped Tour bands – a laser focus on the world’s ills with a very clear message (hell, the title of this EP is what the band’s acronymic name stands for), and broad, far-reaching self-plaudits of being “the voice of this generation”, a genuine quote from guitarist Josh Bowles.
Thankfully, there are two main factors that come in the meat of Challenge Oppression // Pursue Equality that set COPE far, far away from that crowd. For one, their sound is far more in line with a cleaner Feed The Rhino, the type of hardcore that almost exclusively hails from the UK with a dash of post-hardcore for added palatability. But what’s more, COPE actually sound like they care. There are no empty lyrical platitudes that are as throwaway as the the paper they’re written on; you can believe every word that’s screamed out of vocalist Adam Bates’ mouth given the earthy fervour of his delivery. Take Voyage for example, in which Bates airs his disillusionment at modern life through pained, panicked screams that managed to capture the instability of the subject matter, as well as providing the ideal foil for the backing canvas of thick riffs.
What COPE have is an already workable formula, one that even on a surface level has been tried and tested enough times to guarantee something good. There are points where it’s obvious they could benefit from an identity of their own at times – Here’s Hoping is pretty much an Every Time I Die song by any other name – but it hardly cripples the momentum they already have. And judging by the gut-punching fury of Season’s Ending or the slamming punk of Crooks And Thieves that proves that a massive, full-throated chorus makes everything better, that momentum is roughly equal to that of a torpedo.
All of this puts COPE at a huge advantage for further down the line, and the fact that this is only their debut EP only serves to put them even further down the line. It’s not perfect, but at this very early stage they don’t have to be; all that Challenge Oppression // Pursue Equality needs to do at this stage is get their name out there, and the fact that it’s already evidence that with a bit of maturation they could be one of melodic hardcore’s top players is already staggering. And in a year where that list has included Casey, Touché Amoré and Every Time I Die, that’s high praise indeed.
For fans of: Feed The Rhino, Every Time I Die, Beartooth
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Challenge Oppression // Pursue Equality’ by COPE is released on 11th November.