Post-hardcore, as I define it, is hardcore music with emotions and melodies running through it. These emotions present themselves through singing, yelling and spoken word (as opposed to the traditional screaming, growling and roaring of pure hardcore). The melodies come through in the guitars or in the vocals.
Inside that definition, Hands is a pretty fantastic post-hardcore band. They have the heavy guitars and occasional low-throated growl of hardcore, along with other hardcore aesthetics. There aren’t many blastbeats, but there are some pretty heavy sections. Contrasting against those incredibly heavy moments are pieces of heartbreaking beauty, like the acoustic-driven “Communion” and the single electric guitar of “Ignorance.”
The fact that Hands has fused these two parts of themselves perfectly on The Sounds of Earth is cause for celebration. The best two tracks on this album (“Hope” and “Revelation”) are the perfect fusions of their sides. “Hope” is a slower song, evoking old-school MeWithoutYou (“Gentlemen” comes to mind). The melodies are given forerunner status until the spoken-word comes in, to which the guitars fall into the background. As the spoken word surges in intensity, so do the guitars. Halfway through the song, the spoken word transforms into a ragged yell, and the guitars ratchet up to a hardcore stomp. It gives me chills, every time. I’ve heard it probably fifteen times, and it still amazes me. Their fusion of power and emotion is just astonishing.
“Revelation” does much the same. It clocks in at more than nine minutes, and it takes enough twists and turns to keep all of those nine minutes interesting. The best moment of the piece, though, comes in at about five and a half minutes. The whole band drops out of one of the most prototypical, chugga-chugga hardcore sections in the entire album, and the lead singer is left with a slow-paced, elegaic single-note guitar line and a tapped cymbal. It drops even further, to a single note on guitar. He then whispers “Hear, o Earth, the Lord our God is one.” It’s shiver-inducing. They then crash everyone back in, have an arching guitar line over the base of distortion, and have the only group singalong of the entire album. It’s a satisfying song: it sets you up to want something, then makes you wait before giving it to you. The whole album is worth the last four minutes of “Revelation,” I kid you not.
But the amazing thing is that there are moments all throughout this album that strike only a little bit less hard than the two I mentioned. I must warn you that the first three tracks are terrible; but after the repetitive monotony of the first three, the rest of the tracks fly by. “Separation” has a sweet guitar riff to start it out. The atmosphere of “Despair” legitimately sounds like despair. “The Sounds of Earth” is three minutes and it still feels too short, because it’s just so incredibly beautiful. “Ignorance” is the same way, although it’s even more heartrendingly beautiful than “The Sounds of Earth.”
I could go on talking about this album for a really long time. I haven’t even addressed the fact that this is a concept album, or the fact that I’m excited to see music by Christians that is equal in talent and enjoyment to the rest of the indie world (Hands, meet Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan, meet Hands.). I haven’t talked about the fact that it sounds like MeWithoutYou and the Appleseed Cast jamming together. I really could keep raving, but here’s the facts: if you like hard music and pretty music, you will love Hands. They do it all really well. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Hands.