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hAND - Breathing CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.51 | 7 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars With their second full-length outing, British trio hAND sets out to create an album different from your average female-fronted metal effort. Rather than opting for the standard symphonic/gothic sound where the instruments are only used to showcase the vocalist's talents, hAND instead makes a very band-oriented effort with Breathing. Kat Ward's angelic vocals, backed by strong musicianship across the board, immediately set hAND apart from your average female-fronted metal group, and their atmospheric prog metal style further distances them from the herds of "Epicas" floating around in the heavy metal world. Despite Breathing's tendency to sound a bit too conventional at times, this is a very promising effort from a band with plenty to offer.

I'd describe the music on Breathing as a cross between progressive metal, doom metal, and gothic metal. The vocals throughout the full duration and dark piano parts on "Flee" hint towards goth metal, while technical guitar passages and time signature shifts, as well as quite a few doomy riffs, set hAND apart from most gothic metal outfits. The band's unique approach to progressive metal is ultimately their strongest asset, although the musicianship is also excellent across the board. Kieren Johnstone's excellent guitar work immediately proves that hAND are much more than simply a vehicle to drive vocal melodies, and Cris Nelson's expressive drumming is also noteworthy. Kat Ward's vocals, though possibly a bit too tame for my tastes, are also excellent and it's clear that she has a great set of pipes. Her bass playing takes a bit more of a backseat on Breathing and it's generally fairly simplistic, but the music generally doesn't demand super-technical bass playing in the first place.

In terms of songwriting, hAND could still use a bit of improvement. It's apparent that the band does know how to write solid riffs - there are quite a few of those on Breathing - but the vocal melodies are often a bit monotonous and lack enough memorability to truly make this a wonderful experience. Variation within the arrangements is also kept to a minimum, and can get a bit dull towards the end of the album's playing time. It's a bit of a shame - the compositions themselves are varied and unique from one another, but the dull production and lack of instrumental variation really give the album an added edge of monotony.

Even though the melodies and arrangements could use a bit of work, Breathing's pros certainly outweigh its cons and it currently stands as a unique changeup in the prog metal world. hAND are a promising act and, with some work in the aforementioned areas, their next outing could really be something special. People looking for something different than your average female-fronted metal act should still find plenty of enjoyment from Breathing - I know I did. 3 stars are deserved for this solid and promising effort.

J-Man | 3/5 |


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