According to the press blurb included with this album, "hAND are back". If you added “they are” at the end, it would sound like something Yoda might say. Excuse my oddities but I've never heard of hAND before and had no idea what to expect when playing this CD for the first time. Based in Horsham, 'Kintsugi' is hAND's third album and they have been around since 2004. hAND are labelled as a progressive/alternative metal band and there are plenty of influences cited on the blurb and their Facebook page such as Opeth, Paradise Lost, Tool, Kate Bush, Muse, Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater (although they have spelt the name incorrectly so not sure how big an influence they are).
Musically, 'Kintsugi' (which means the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin, dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum) is excellent, although I did struggle to hear any of the above mentioned bands. First song, 'Level One', I thought had an early Marillion and Pendragon feel to it but then the band just go off and do their own thing. It's all very well played, there is some good guitar work, heavy bass and extremely fine drumming. In fact, it's very progressive! It's great to hear a band really trying to push the envelope. It's complex in places, quieter in others and I would actually consider hAND more rock than metal.
I don't know if you can tell by the tone of my review, but there is also a problem with hAND and, unfortunately, it's a biggie. I've reviewed a lot of bands lately with female members and there are some fantastic ones out there playing all sorts of instruments as well as singing but I'm afraid, to these ears, Kat Ward is not going to be joining that list. 'Kintsugi' is utterly ruined by her dull, boring, uninspired, emotionless and generic wail. It is her voice which appears to give hAND their supposed alternative tag and she might just get away with it in a standard alt-rock band, but the music here is far too complex and well played to warrant this dreadful mess over the top, which is also far too high in the mix.
After such a promising start, my toes just curled when she began to sing. It's not that she's out of tune, just completely the wrong vocalist for this band. It's a total and utter mismatch, only saved by the fact that the last song and a half on the album are instrumental, which gives a brief chance for Dan Thomas, Kieren Johnstone and Tom Johnstone to shine. Whilst reading hAND's Facebook page, I noted that Kat is also the general manager of the band. Personally, I would suggest she concentrates on that job and leaves the singing to someone that can do justice to the music. I’d ideally like to give 'Kintsugi' two scores because I don't want the superb musicianship to be tainted by weak vocals: Music - 8/10; Vocals - 3/10.
Brutal Elite Records
Review by Rick Tilley
3rd Nov 2014
1) Level 1
3) Anthem (Ode to the Giddy)
4) Volcanic Panic
6) Amazing Burn
7) Hide You
8) Through the Big Door
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"It's great to hear a band really trying to push the envelope."