Hands Like Houses


Written by: TL on 08/08/2013 19:02:32

At one point last year, every post-hardcore listening friend I have was seemingly raving about Australian sextet Hands Like Houses and their debut LP "Ground Dweller", and while I wasn't sipping enough of the same cool-aid to ever fall in love with that album (partially due to lack of effort on my part I admit) the hype left enough of an impression on me to make me curious for the quick follow-up the band dropped this July. And with "Unimagine", as the album is called, Hands Like Houses seemingly seek to further explore the newschool, melodic power-rock that over the past few years has grown out of and away from the scream/breakdown-dominated metalcore and post-hardcore trends.

"Unimagine" then, thrives on the same bombastic punch and power of arena-sized post-hardcore, yet is carefully harnessed in sparkling melody, tight song-structures and dominating clean vocals of at times improbable range. What begs to be noticed before any of that however, is firstly the marvelous work of production that it is. With so many bands struggling to find just the right mix and settings and with great records like Young Guns' "Bones" and Letlive's "The Blackest Beautiful" coming out impaired as a result, it's an almost orgasmic pleasure to listen to the perfect balance between the two guitars, the bass, the drums, the keys and the various vocal layers of "Unimagine", coming at you through your speakers with both forceful oomph and delicate sparkle. And I do not give one fuck about how much trickery and pro-tools is in play here. If you can make your record sound this good, I think you should take the whole analogue trend, stick it, and then do this instead.

Furthermore, the next obvious observation is that "Unimagine" seizes your attention immediately and repeatedly with a strength that all too few albums manage these days. Opener "Developments" may quickly reveal that the band has lyricism that's so overly cryptical that I doubt anyone but they can make sense of it, but at the same time it shines with their penchant for soaring dynamics and extremely catchy chorus melody. "Introduced Species" follows with the kind of beat and shout-along-able refrain that'll make even the skeptical prone to pump fists and bang heads, while "Shapeshifters" soon comes around roaring with an opening verse that's hysterically strong.

"A Tale Of Outer Suburbia" brings a welcome, anthemic change of pace in the middle of the record, moving from prechorus to chorus with a dramatic pause that perfectly underscores just how sweet the vocals/guitar/keyboard interplay of the latter is, and as the album moves on towards a close, you should notice with satisfaction how it on one hand sounds perfectly homogenic, yet includes varying nods to other bands that have taken previous steps on the path Hands Like Houses are now blazing down.

The epic guitars that open "Weights" for instance, sound like vintage Secret And Whisper or Flood Of Red, while "Fountainhead"'s mixture of proggy and funky instantly invokes thoughts of Closure In Moscow. In between those three references, there's plenty of room to also observe positive similarities to likely influences Saosin and Emarosa and contemporaries like I The Mighty and Conditions. Yet if I should point out a flaw in "Unimagine", it must be that the lyrics, as far as I've sampled them, are over-worded and nigh on completely unintelligible, which is a shame, because you get the feeling from the instrumental progressions and the vocal delivery, that Hands Like Houses have encouraging and uplifting messages to convey similarly to the latter two references, but they just never really get from ambiguous hint to relatable thought.

While great lyrics could've coated this already delicious offering with the final, superb icing, I think however, that its absence is not enough to detract much from the qualities that are almost painfully obvious. "Unimagine" is scary well-composed and well-produced, treating you to roughly five songs that are pretty good and six that are instantly great. And instantly is really the deal-sealing word here, because if you prefer albums that only open up over time, this definitely isn't one of those. "Unimagine" is, first and foremost, a record that makes you go "Wow!" immediately, only to make you feel like putting it on again, and then again, and then again...

Download: Developments, Introduced Species, Shapeshifters, A Tale Of Outer Suburbia, Fountainhead
For The Fans Of: Closure In Moscow, Conditions, Emarosa, Secret And Whisper, Saosin,
Listen: facebook.com/handslikehouses

Release Date 23.07.2013
Rise Records

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