Review Summary: Desperate, vicious, and resilient, I Will Guide Thy Hand masterfully weaves the best parts of screamo and metalcore into a staggering experience.
When I first heard I Will Guide Thy Hand
, I was reading The Fifth Season
, a Hugo-winning fantasy novel by N.K. Jemisin. The novel concerns the lives and struggles of orogenes, a race of humans who can telepathically manipulate the earth and its seismic energy to literally move mountains. Their powers make them targets of horrific levels of violence and oppression, and many people believe that they’re too dangerous to be allowed to live at all. And so the story alternates between the main characters performing awesome, terrifying feats of magic, often in self-defense, and suffering at the hands of a system that considers their very existence a threat. It’s equal parts thrilling and heartbreaking.
Whether by serendipitous timing or just a tendency to make strange connections, I hear the plight of the orogenes in I Will Guide Thy Hand
. OLAM’s style of hardcore elegantly weaves the desperate chaos of emoviolence together with the vicious aggression of metalcore, evoking both the suffering and panic of victimhood and the instinct for violent self-defense. This duality is immediately evident in the first moments of “Wounds,” as the track shifts on a dime between a frantic seizure and an aggressive, pulverizing breakdown. Vocalist Jake Hahn’s screams can embody the pained howls of mauled prey as well as the warning screeches of a cornered predator. These juxtapositions permeate the whole of I Will Guide Thy Hand
, and by the time the closing title track arrives, the persistence of the themes of desperation and aggression cause a third theme to unfold: resilience. Like the orogenes of The Fifth Season
, OLAM spends the runtime of I Will Guide Thy Hand
surviving by the skin of their teeth as they are assailed from all directions, and the title track is a defiant declaration that they will continue to fight and continue to survive: “I am wolf / I’m awake / I’m a vulture on the take.” Listening to I Will Guide Thy Hand
is often a cathartic experience, but it’s just as often a harrowing one, and by switching between the two modes at breakneck velocity, the album refuses to give the listener much room to catch their breath. The last moments of the closer serve as a triumphant conclusion to the experience, allowing the listener to settle just enough to reflect on how much they’ve endured. I Will Guide Thy Hand
is simply a staggering piece of music, and ultimately, it’s a monumentally rewarding one.