It's impossible to discuss this album without mentioning the fact that Hope of the States guitarist Jimmi Lawrence committed suicide last January. The band have been at pains to point out that this debut was essentially finished before then and that we shouldn't read too much into its rather morbid tone. Even so, it's hard to listen to this uncompromisingly bleak record without experiencing a little chill down the spine. Its huge, epic sound owes a lot to the sadly-departed Lawrence, with swirling guitars, string-laden arrangements, rousing vocals and lyrics that border on the apocalyptic. Bombastic it may be, but it's also incredibly powerful stuff that makes most other indie-rock albums seem juvenile by comparison. Hope of the States are still a work in progress, and it remains to be seen if they've got the emotional resilience to put their loss behind them and develop into a truly great band. But there's something truly mesmerising about hearing them reach for the stars - even if they do fall on their backsides every now and again.