COPE – ‘THE SHOCK DOCTRINE’

By Liam Knowles

The concept of the ‘Shock Doctrine’, made popular by Canadian author Naomi Klein, is a simple one: if people are too tired, poor, miserable or apathetic to stand up for themselves, then governments and other powerful bodies can get away with pretty much whatever they want. As such, these powerful bodies create a system that works to keep people in this state of oppression while they go about their dastardly business.

It’s fitting, then, that this politically-charged debut album from London hardcore unit Cope comes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that has seen our own government and their media mouthpieces pull various underhanded tricks to distract us from the fact that they’ve been careless and negligent at best, and downright selfish and cruel at worst. We should all be very angry, and righteous anger needs a killer soundtrack.

The album opens with lead single ‘Life In 3D’ that lambastes the (not exclusively) American obsession with guns and the culture that allows easy access to such deadly weapons, focusing specifically on the 2012 incident that saw blueprints for a 3D-printed gun leaked online to anyone who felt like making one. This sensitive subject is addressed within a wall of thick, rumbling guitars and galloping drums which carry the venom of the vocals perfectly. Musically, for the most part, Cope sit somewhere between the straight-up hardcore of a band like Comeback Kid and the swaggering riffage of Cancer Bats, but they also know their way around an anthemic punk chorus. Tracks like ‘I’m Alright, Jack’ and album highlight ‘Gold’ faultlessly blend that aforementioned hardcore element with breakneck-speed melodic punk-rock in the vein of Propagandhi, complete with subtle yet intricate lead guitar work under the urgent clean vocals.

The only real criticism with this record, and it’s something that often comes up in music that has a political / social point to make, is that some of the lyrics are just a little too on-the-nose, and as such can come across a little contrived. This is particularly prevalent on closer ‘Influenza’ which features a slightly cringeworthy refrain of “Who is the best-dressed? Send me another friend request. Hopes and prayers for likes and shares, this is our social nightmare.” It touches on the fair point that social media is mostly awful, and it’s delivered well enough, but there’s something about it that doesn’t quite land and it’s unfortunate that the band chose that particular track as the big finisher for the album.

Cope are a relatively young band and this impressive debut record shows bucketloads of potential. They dance the line between hardcore and punk-rock extremely well, which will help them stand out among the current crop of young hardcore bands who seem to mostly lean towards the metal side of things rather than towards the genre’s roots in punk. If they can capture the potent energy and incandescent rage of this album in a live environment then they could become a force to be reckoned with.

LIAM KNOWLES

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