Review Summary: Stars are not as small and meek as they appear.
Outer space has always fascinated inquiring minds. Even with both feet planted firmly on the ground, those curious about what stretches beyond us have their heads, quite understandably, in the clouds. An innocent curiosity prevails, one hardwired within every being’s very fibers featuring questions running the gamut from the astrological in questioning man’s place among the stars to the spiritual, in pondering mortality and weighing whether that spacious stretch above us holds the potential to harbor our souls. It’s fitting then to recognize the artwork of Hands’ Give Me Rest
and the constellation silhouetting the body of a being as the trio’s third full length not only deals with existential conflict, but also presents a dynamic collection of music broad enough to represent those massive existential questions begging to be resolved.
Like a seemingly tiny star fixed within the sky, Hands – Shane Ochsner on guitars and vocals, Chris Schwartz on bass and Josh Silbernagel on drums – is much more powerful than an initial glance at this trio may reveal. In fact, opener “I Will” should shed any skepticism of Hands’ sonic strength with the raw opening of Ochsner screaming “Rise, from the quiet I will rise/can you feel the anger in my heart/I can’t believe this is me” over a tense drumbeat. It’s a stirring beginning, but the piece only builds from there, eventually flaming out with an Isis-esque wall of guitars and lower-register bellowing, showcasing the range of Ochsner’s screaming. If anything, “I Will” serves as a fitting preview of Hands’ moody mix of hardcore and ambience, not unlike the heady Misery Signals. “The Helix,” a lengthier offering at over six minutes, unfolds with Ochsner abandoning a roar for a whisper as the delicate backdrop of reserved picking and careful drumming wanders carefully. Roughly four minutes in, that frail soundtrack begins to crack as Ochsner’s tenor becomes strained before completely shattering with an ending crescendo of merciless chugging and fierce screaming. Not only does “The Helix” possess the most unforgiving moment within Give Me Rest
, the track also hints at the softer, more pensive qualities that Hands’ music features.
Hands is a group much more interested in marrying sonic extremes – such as post-rock’s muscular riffing and ambient music’s sparse soundscapes – than settling for monotonous middle ground and because of this the trio captures the push and pull of conflict effortlessly. With a gloomy bassline, “Here I Am” starts slowly and finds a desperate Ochsner wrenching his singing voice above a subdued melody pleading and begging for God to open his eyes and awaken his dormant soul. “Restart,” on the other hand, explodes with charging guitars and the screamed lyrics of “I can feel my heart giving in/to the weight of your design/and like a remedy/you are fixing me/while the world has left me blind.” What comes after this outburst is just short of breathtaking as the trio settles into a shimmering verse that is borderline Futures
-era Jimmy Eat World with its touching tune before the piece rises again to its anthemic, screamed refrain. “Restart” can only be regarded as a frustrated, spiritually exhausted worship song and a gorgeous one at that, sure to pull on the heartstrings of listeners while transcending religious views. This happens to be the true beauty of Give Me Rest
as this is an album that will make listeners think as much as feel.
On a whole, the record’s only downfall is the nonchalant “Water.” Although other selections on Give Me Rest
admittedly take a few spins to reveal their nuances, the aforementioned track – featuring guest vocals from A Hope for Home’s Nathan Winchell – never leaves a memorable impression. Fortunately for fans of the band, “Water” is the only forgettable track of the set as Give Me Rest
gradually improves as the pieces pass by.
It should not come as a surprise that Give Me Rest
is as emotionally arresting as the record is. Merely tuning into the passionate performance of Ochsner is evidence alone. Coupling the towering menace of post-rock and the reserved splendor of ambient touches with such a narrator only intensifies matters, awarding the ten compositions here a rare dramatic flair. Not only then is it convenient that Hands is willing to challenge matters of faith, mortality and mere existence, it seems rather appropriate. Give Me Rest
is an album that melds the harsh with the heavenly, daring the curious to question their place amongst the stars, while providing the light of passionate, heartfelt music to illuminate their way.