Release DetailsLABEL Goodfellow Records
RELEASED ON 2/20/2007
The Handshake Murders
posted on 2/2007 By:
As a rule, I have no real issue with acts that subvert conventional ideas of song structure and melody in favor of recursive and painful slabs of noise. Often times this disregard opens a window to a world where listeners are able to experience something approaching real discomfort, and ultimately catharsis. Bands like the The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ion Dissonance, and Meshuggah have embraced this style and in turn created albums that are musically interesting and truly worthwhile. What I think these bands understood is that when you turn convention upside down, you have to offer exciting alternatives to old standards. Whether it's replacing relative minor melodies with unsettling and deviant harmonic progressions, or deconstructing time signatures -- these bands understood that they had to do more than just play more, and louder, breakdowns.
With that said, I didn't go into this review with a vendetta against The Handshake Murders or the type of music they'd like to play. I just don't think they have the savvy to execute it in a compelling way yet. Much like upcoming tour-mates Apiary, THM offer a series of disconnected breakdowns with The Acacia Strain type heft, and not fully realized nods to Meshuggah. The result is a heavy, but truly boring album. Unfortunately, as this homogeneous and seemingly endless series of tracks drone on, the impact of the heavy decreases logarithmically. And, even though the band plays tight as a unit and is produced clearly, their mechanical performance and soulless songs scream for the band to do something in the studio to imbue these songs with a touch of character; sadly, the semi-groovy southern rock riffs that fill in the places between the incessant off-tempo breakdowns don't do the trick. There's a line between an intimidatingly mechanical focus and a lack of soul. If the band had more of an idea of what they were doing or what they were trying to accomplish, they could project the former rather than the latter. Failing that, the very least this album could use are some parts that actually communicate to the listener and distinguish one bludgeoning breakdown from another.
I think the reason why this album fails for me is that there's really no sincerity or purpose behind the pummeling facade. I don't understand what the band is trying to accomplish, and I've got a sense that's because this album was written with no appreciable sense of purpose. The result is an album that isn't only repetitive, but also kind of annoying.
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