Review Summary: "Something to put your feet up to, when you're not quite in the mood for the ball of frenetic energy that is Streetlight Manifesto."
Tomas Kalnoky could not have stated it any better when asked about his sophomore release "The Hand That Thieves". This album serves as a companion to Streetlight Manifesto's "The Hands That Thieve" and contains impressive acoustic renditions of each song, expertly crafted by Toh Kay (Tomas Kalnoky) and his acoustic trio.
It was only with immense amounts of frustration and seemingly endless legal fighting that Streetlight Manifesto's album made its way to the eager public (with the band encouraging the pirating of this work the entire time). To numerous loyal fans' further dismay, the Toh Kay companion album seemed to be cancelled when Victory Records offered Tomas Kalnoky an ultimatum, the choice between pulling the Toh Kay record completely or releasing it through Victory Records. Fortunately the album was leaked on its expected release date and can be enjoyed without supporting Victory Records.
The piece of musical craft that was finally able to be experienced after the legal mess was truly something special. True to Kalnoky's word, although this album has the same song titles, lyrics, and chord progressions as its companion, "the similarities end there." For every intense horn blaring solo that captures attention on Streetlight's record, there is an equally superb acoustic talent exemplified by Tomas on this record. Far from needing the constant excitement that so many instruments blend together to create on Streetlight's album, Tomas displays to us how soothing and meaningful the songs can be as the strings and light drums fuse together in perfect combination to take listeners on a relaxed melodic journey. The audience will find themselves humming along to the harmonies that once belonged to a thrilling brass section, but rather than a feeling of something missing, there is an overwhelming sense of everything being just in its perfect place for the duration of the album.
The depth and weight of lyrics have always been a mainstay in Kalnoky's work and this album is no exception. With less background instrumentation, the profound concepts sang by Tomas can be fully appreciated. There are little barriers when it comes to the variety of topics covered and the only rule seems to be sincerity and genuine passion. On the second track "Ungrateful", we are drawn into a man's struggle with a voice inside his head and how he attempts to persevere through. "If Only for Memories" featuring a young person cogitating on a decision to leave home and explore the world or stay true to his roots and family. There aren't many that can listen to this record and forget "With Any Sort of Certainty", a song reinforced with an extra verse that touches on true belief and the comfort of a certain mystery in life.
Overall this record does nothing to disappoint. Dedicated Streetlight Manifesto fans will find a beautifully soft companion to "The Hands That Thieve", and newcomers will discover an acoustic album with reflective lyrics that force listeners to think beyond themselves. A tranquilizing record that is worthy of multiple visits, Toh Kay's "The Hand That Thieves" is a gratifying experience time and time again.