I absolutely love it when an album doesn't fit into a genre. How often does that happen anymore? The concept has almost disappeared completely. Sure, there are plenty of releases like no other, but they're mostly terrible so we ignore them. But this…
From unlikely Fargo, North Dakota we heard the Facedown debut (and sophomore full-length), Creator, from ambient hardcore trio Hands. It garnered acclaim for its unique approach, but it was not yet a ripened concept. But their follow up, Give Me Rest, now makes me think they are one of the most creative bands to come around the heavy side of music in a long time.
Possible influences bleed through as stark colours in tracks like "Cube" and "Restart," which feature unabashed alternative rock sections in the vein of Jimmy Eat World, yet pick up a second after to sound more like Misery Signals: brutish guitars chugging to superb low growls from front man Shane Ochsner.
"I Will" opens the album very unconventionally, building up from a tense drum beat by Josh Silbernagel, to hardcore yells, to pensive guitar melodies. The volume rises with the tension until we're left defenseless before the full brunt of their emotion, and finally cooled off by silvery group vocals. The simplicity of their outfit is cause for applause. They accomplish with three members what most bands need four or five to set up. They hit so hard with so little. Nearly every track takes a long time to kick in, but that's the way they do it. They don't conform because they aren't trying to be like anyone else. You won't be able to play any of these songs on the radio but fans are patient because they love it this way.
Hands have figured out, like some others, that heavy music seems to goes hand in hand with ambient, atmospheric melody, and they embrace this fact. If you throw on Give Me Rest as background music, you get lost in the soundscape, but alternatively if you focus all your attention on it, you get a full course meal. There's just so much to discover here, especially when you approach it as a concept album. They've put together an intense story that portrays a man weary of the world who finds hope in God. Immediately hearing "Water," I could relate to the tired words, "I just want something real." In that are the same feelings many of us get, beaten by the harsh world and left hopeless. Aggression is traded for hopeful melody, "Be still, my brother. Be still so we may hear His voice." Again and again this occurs throughout the album: the intensity level dips down only to pitch back up again. But with a brilliant mastery of musical poetry, they intertwine the words.
"The Helix," the song to hear on this album, opens with "I am not alone. Oh but I feel so tired." But they let the energy build from notch one, and at the end of "So wake me up!" they kick it up a few in an instant. Hands take all the time they need to paint the full picture (growls over melodic tweedling, slow bassline), until the final two minutes absolutely explode with emotion, "I will take Your hand, just lead me through the dark."
To God, Shane yells, "Here I am. Are you here?" to be met with singing, "Wake up, my son." The track "Here I Am" unfurls similar to "The Helix" as it kicks in like a bull with, "Oh God, I'm begging you now, open up my eyes!" It nearly tears me up. After all the tiredness, the questions, the lost battles, the confusion, hope is found, and it is palpable; it's beautiful. Then like dirt being washed away, disgusting chugging introduces "Jovian." "Come into the light, and meet the world. You are beautiful. Open your eyes. I will show you the way. I will always be here;" the lyrics are all relatively easy to understand through Shane's three speeds: singing, yelling, and growling. So take the time to listen through.
"2005" is where the life of hardship becomes worth something, "I am bound by the chains of temptation." It's unfortunate that it takes a band of three to put the bassist on par with the guitarist, but Chris Schwartz takes an admirable position, often filling out the rhythm while Shane lays down the harmonies. Life In Your Way is an easy influence to spot. Once again, the subject of the lyrics is tired, but only physically this time, and nearing the end of his journey, "I get frustrated/I've been holding on so long, but I just need to let go. I will fall into your arms and cry 'You are God!'" Finally, he asks for rest once more, at the end of his earthly age, "Will I rest with You for all time? Is my name in there?"
I put so much emphasis on the lyrics for this album only because, in this rare case, they weigh in as heavy as the music. I strongly encourage everyone to give all your attention to Give Me Rest at least once through. Frustration takes hold of aggressive hardcore, followed by praise; beauty and contentment couples perfectly with heart-melting melodies. This is an incredible album, unlike anything you've listened to I can almost guarantee. It's thick with relatable emotion, carried on the back of extremely robust musicianship. This is art. "Here I sit among the clouds. I was wrong, You were right. Give me rest! Give me rest!"- Review date: 7/4/11, written by Wayne Reimer of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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