hAND - Shadow: Word Pain
Ok let's be honest here, you've clocked the band name and EP title and you're thinking of a gothic rock band barely out of their teens with lyrics still mired in youthful angst and goth cliché aren't you? Well don't run away, as while hAND do fulfil all those criteria, they're also a band ambitious and musically talented enough to stretch songs out to seven minutes without running out of ideas (no mean feat), and their progressive sound pushes at genre boundaries with real verve. In short, this is one enjoyable record.
Ignore the song titles ('Resurrect the Night' anyone?) and focus on the music, and you'll be rewarded, as songs are given real space to breathe. Each goes through several changes of time and mood, and show off a grasp of songcraft unusual for a band averaging 19 years of age. Singer Kat's chiming piano works well against Kieren's guitar throughout, with excellent staccato playing from the former in 'Manuscript', and superb effects-laden soloing from the latter through closer 'Clannad Mass'. Kat's vocal style will be broadly familiar to anyone who's heard a Lacuna Coil or Nightwish record but retains a softer edge, and while sticksman Kieren's style hints he's happiest playing the heavier segments, he makes the transitions through light and dark flow with surprising grace.
Atmospheric and ambitious, hAND have many reasons to be very proud of this EP and as their lyrics develop with experience to match their musical nous, there's no doubt they could be something very special, very soon.