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Handwrist - The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.04 | 4 ratings

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4 stars Rul Bothelho has released a decent discography during his career recording under the moniker Handwrist. Just in 2019 alone, he has released 5 albums so far. The best surprise is that they have been albums that are well done, that effectively explore certain concepts or ideas and express them very well.

His fifth album released in October of 2019, is called "The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste", and again, he is the sole performer on the album. This album is the 2nd installment in the Handwrist series of albums called "Asia Minor", the first album an EP released in 2016 called "Çatalhöyük". This album deals with the killing of Christian soldiers professing and confessing their faith in Armenia in 320 AD, and told from the perspective of the head person in charge of the punishment these soldiers would receive. It also deals with the belief that, according to Rul's description on Bandcamp, "death is transformed into life through suffering and sacrifice" as described by music. There are 6 tracks on this album with a run time of over 40 minutes.

The first three tracks are called "Confession". "Confession I" (4:07) is driven by a slow, dirge-like repeating pattern with a miasma of sounds and dissonant music playing over the top. This soon speeds up a bit, and becomes more dramatic as a hazy collection of instruments play laying more of a dark and thick texture than creating any melody. A high pitched synth stands out the most as it flutters around above the fuzzy background. "Confession II" (5:16) gives the impression of a steady march underneath some synth layers that give an orchestral impression that feels cinematic, but remains dark and dramatic. This time, you get more of an impression of swatches of melody coming out, but nothing really forms into any standard semblance of a theme. Wordless vocal effects come through the mish-mash of sounds, but, like most of the other sounds, they are fractured into pieces, not really coherant, but sort of dream-like. The music softens a bit and becomes more pensive. "Confession III" (11:39) begins with no rhythm, but is characterized by dissonant piano chords and notes which later get joined by clashing riffs and sounds from other instruments, guitars, synths and etc. The music plods along slowly, driven by piano chords and dissonant flourishes and the lower notes providing a "ground" bass pattern that pushes it along slowly and torturously. Echo effects and other sounds give you a sense of dispair and darkness. At 6 minutes, the music becomes more symphonic as we lose the piano bass notes and instead end up with a swirling cacophony of textures and conflicting melodies (thoughts) all squashed together. Again, there are no melodic lines that stand out, but instead there are several instruments creating a texture by playing individual themes. They seem to fight for the spotlight, but none takes center stage.

The last three tracks are called "Ascension". "Ascension I" (10:16) begins with a somewhat hymn like theme, yet it is all kept hazy. There is a build in intensity as more wordless vocals come along, then heavy piano chords build to what is seeming to become a more elevating sound. The texture seems brighter and more redemptive, but still remains mostly hazy as the music slowly intensifies. Around 5 minutes, an apex is reached and the music quickly changes becoming more mysterious and even a bit confusing, even making the listener feels like the music is leaving them dangling in mid-air as it decides where to go. Just before 8 minutes, everything softens becoming quite a bit lighter, but still feeling like you are stuck between two worlds. The texture goes back to a more exaltant sense as the piano and organ work with tonal percussion to create brightness, yet retaining that church-like ambience. "Ascension II" (6:06) returns to the densness of before, but strings push it forward, and the returning piano brightens things up again. Layers of melody that seem like they are unrelated when listened to singularly are actually creating atmosphere and texture when layered together like they are. What sounds like woodwinds of some sort join the fray and create a feeling of elation, but do so with a bit of tension in the underlying instruments. Different sounds shinge through at different times. At 4 minutes, things become less misamic and the piano mixes with a rolling percussive noise and then brings in a toy-like tonal percussion to make things more carefree and happy. "Ascension III" (3:15) uses dark and low piano chords to keep a slow time while tonal percussion builds layer upon layer, again bringing in an exaultant feeling, and a snippets of melody emerge from the fray. This closing track ties together a feeling of redemption and happiness tieing together the finality of the 2nd half of the disc.

Once again, Handwrist proves he knows how to build atmosphere based on a more miasmic approach to painting a soundscape. This music is pretty much textural, using several riffs, melody snippets and sounds layered together to produce a musical painting and expressing the story, or feeling, that he wants to convey. This is not music that you can just go into without knowing it's purpose, or it's concept. If you do, you will just end up thinking it is unorganized and chaotic. But, this music is more about texture than it is about organizing things into a simple discernable melody. The album, for being one that deals with textures than with melody, is very organic sounding which is a great thing. It doesn't sound electronic hardly at all, but uses tradional instrumental sounds to create the atmosphere it wants. The first half of the album is dark and thick, a bit harder to listen to, but it conveys the feeling of dispair, torture and confusion, where the 2nd half is a bit easier to listen to as it portrays a more exaltant and positive feeling. Overall, this album is extremely effective in the story that it is painting with these soundscapes. The one thing that bothers me a bit is the slightly muffled feeling that is there, but as the album goes on, you notice it less as your listening adjusts to it. This album, as a package is definitely 4 star material, especially with the accompanying artwork and the printed story. I believe these things are essential in understanding this album completely. Personally, I have distanced myself from religion over the years as I have learned to open my mind more to my own experiences and not the beliefs of certain men that wanted to use religion as a way to control people, but that doesn't take away from the experience that is portrayed by this album.

TCat | 4/5 |


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