Review Summary: Repetition and stagnation reign on this quintet's sophomore release.
Ever since 2007, Hand of Mercy
has been gradually building up a fanbase with the releases of their EPs "Trash the Party", and "Scum of the Earth", in 2007 and 2008, respectively. But with their first album "The Fallout" in 2010, they were on track to join Australian metalcore giants such as I Killed the Prom Queen
and Parkway Drive
. The album introduced several elements such as more melodic guitar work and clean vocals that saw them playing bigger and bigger shows, supporting overseas bands such as A Day to Remember
and August Burns Red
on their Australian tours. And when the announcement came that the band were flying to Boston to record a new album, there was no shortage of hype for what they could come up with next. Well, the wait is over and Hand of Mercy are ready to display their new work.
Before the release, the band had released three singles to build the hype, Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander, Rumble in the Grundle and 23 Hour Lockdown. Rumble was released first, and while enjoyable at first, the song wears thin quickly. Absence thankfully is a song with a lot more variation and it gave me hope for this album; that it would be a good progression of the style they were beginning to meld on The Fallout. 23 Hour Lockdown, however, was rather worrying. It is incredibly similar to Rumble and thus serves to diminish the power of both songs. The lack of clean vocals in any of these songs was also a concern, as they were one of the aspects which made The Fallout such an enjoyable release.
Despite the doubt, I bought the album regardless and was greeted by the first track, Dexter. It begins with a breakdown and a shout of "Murderer!" Not a great start when compared to the infectiously catchy start of Sick For It from The Fallout. Even from this opening song, some differences are clear: the production is a cleaner, no doubt a result of the production work of Shane Frisby, who has worked with other bands such as The Ghost Inside
and Bury Your Dead
. The guitar tones of Adam and Josh has been tuned down noticeably, and while this results in a heavier sound, this is to the detriment of the memorability of the riffs; they sound rather muddy and don't sound quite as fun as the riffs from earlier songs such as Ankles to the Wall and Claim to Lame. The drumming and bass work is typical of the genre; nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about either. Scott's vocals are similar to that of their previous work, but the absence of Adam's clean vocals is a massive disappointment. The counterpoint provided by them is surely missed and makes this release more repetitive. The best example of the repetition the album suffers from is the song Can't Stop, Won't Stop, Did Stop, being without a doubt the poorest song on the album, beginning with a breakdown and consisting primarily of breakdown after breakdown.
Breakdowns are a staple of modern metalcore, but it never ceased to disappoint me when predictably Hand of Mercy fell into the trap of saturating their songs with them. Despite these issues, however, a couple of songs stand out. Absence as mentioned earlier was a standout, the melodic guitar work being a much yearned for break from the constant deep crunchy riffs that the rest of the album is dowsed in. Strong Armed is also another standout, starting fast and hard, with the gang vocals being a good reminder of their earlier EPs. The track is fun, with a rather catchy breakdown in the middle and will no doubt be one of the best tracks to mosh to in their upcoming shows. Last Lights is definitely the strongest track on the album, and being the only one with clean vocals greatly benefits from them. If more of the songs were like this one, the rating would definitely be higher. While lyrics were never one of Hand of Mercy's best features (like most other bands of their type), there are some great memorable lines with the final track as well.
Hand of Mercy are nothing if consistent, but did they believe Parkway Drive was what was to be strived for when it comes to creating music? Like the aforementioned band, their songwriting is beginning to stagnate, and I'd hate to see Hand of Mercy to succumb to the temptation of laziness like them. Creativity seems to be short on this release, but I truly hope they can bounce back from this and that it's not an indication of their future work.
+Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander