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hAND - Breathing CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.51 | 7 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Breathing' - hAND (6/10)

In metal, having a female-fronted band can be a bit of a touchy and looked down upon subject. Although there are certainly quite a few wonderful exceptions to this- far too often, bands will opt to have a female front them in the hopes that the added sex appeal will help attract listeners, or sell a few more shirts. Of course, this trend results in a great deal of half- baked acts, especially in the symphonic metal realm. hAND is a UK act that seeks to break this unwelcome convention by offering an atmospheric style of metal that truly benefits by having a female at the helm. Indeed, the voice of Kat Ward is a large part of this band's sound, but thankfully, hAND is quite a bit more than a vessel for her talents as a vocalist. On the other hand, while 'Breathing' is certainly an artistically credible venture with the band's passion readily evident, it might not be quite enough to bring the female-fronted stigma tumbling down altogether.

As I have said, hAND is a very band-focused and balanced collaboration between the three members. Although Kat Ward fronts the band with her higher register voice, the guitars and drums take just as much of a chunk out of the sound. In fact, the only thing that isn't heard of much is Ward's bass, which when heard, is fairly simplistic, but generally washed out by the rest of the mix. In terms of style, the gothic metal style does seem to suit it best; melancholic riffs and doomy passages rumbling under angelic vocals make up alot of what hAND has to offer. Besides that, there are some more drawn out instrumental moments, and even sections where the band briefly experiments with strange guitar sounds and dissonance. Expect nothing quite so experimental or progressive from these guys though; although they are labelled as a progressive metal act, the band is more rooted in convention than not. This is not necessarily a deterrent to their quality as artists though, because it is clear that they are capable of writing some great ideas.

hAND are not yet experts at writing memorable melodies, but they are very good with powerful chord changes. Although this may seem trivial to some, the doomy, slower sound of the band makes these changes all the more dramatic, and the beautiful layers of guitar that Kieren Johnstone works overtop the chords may very well be the best thing that hAND has to offer. The drums here are well played and dynamic even- something that I cannot say for many metal drummers- but the production makes the drum tone sound cold and distant. Although all three musicians play with feeling, the production feels triggered and mechanical, and I have a feeling that alot of the passion that they obviously put into the music here was lost in the translation to recording.

'Breathing' is a good album, and hAND is a promising act. Although I have never been one for the gothic sound in metal, 'Breathing' does meet its mark where it counts, although there are still quite a few things that bog them down. If hAND are able to address the issues in production and sharpen their craftsmanship with melodies, it could be very interesting to see where this band goes.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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