For Fans Of
Any band who stride on stage proclaiming “We are Metallica!” is bound to be awesome. Whether it’s actually the metal legends themselves, some sad group of leathery bogans at the RSL, or one of hardcore’s best new bands. Alas this review deals with the latter: Cruel Hand’s much awaited “Lock & Key”, which marks the band’s second release on iconic Boston label Bridge Nine.
Hyped as “one of the most important young bands waving the flag of east coast hardcore” by Hardtimes.ca, expectations for “Lock&Key” are undoubtedly high and I’m pleased to report that the Maine five-piece fail to disappoint. Since 2008’s “Prying Eyes” Cruel Hand have become one of America’s most prominent hardcore acts and with good reason. Having toured relentlessly with the likes of Terror, Death Before Dishonor and Have Heart, Cruel Hand have become renowned for their extremely tight stage performances.
With a busy couple of years behind them, the boys returned to the studio to record “Lock & Key” with Jay Maas. Based in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Maas has been behind the albums of many fellow east coast hardcore bands including Bane, Verse and Defeater, experience which has undoubtedly contributed to the overall quality of this release.
On this album Cruel Hand turn up the thrash. Its laden with fast riffs, bruising breakdowns and epic solos, reflecting the strong influence of the likes of Metallica, Leeway and Obituary. Unlike peers in this type of hardcore such as Violation or Bitter End however who tend to favour longer, thrashier song structures, Cruel Hand’s hardcore roots are more identifiable, opting for a shorter and catchier style.
Frontman Chris Linkovich’s vocals are noticeably fiercer and heavier on the new album as he confidently slides between screaming and gritty thrash-style singing. Unlike previous efforts “Lock & Key” whole-heartedly incorporates melodic vocals, a feature which has been successfully adopted by other members of the heavy hardcore cohort such as Alpha & Omega. As a major factor differentiating this release from “Prying Eyes”, the shift in vocal style is undoubtedly a positive thing, adding another element to Cruel Hand’s infectious brand of hardcore.
Also perhaps unlike previous releases, “Lock & Key” is very much a solid album start to finish, with not a single weak song. It opens with the album’s title track, starting on a strong note with confident, chugging riffs perfectly accompanying Linkovich’s voice. Next their self-titled song “Cruel Hand” opens with a No Warning-esque riff, and has a weirdly catchy hard rock chorus (which unlike NW’s foray into Linkin Park style melodic vocals, is awesome).
“One Cold Face” features an awesome old-school rock n’ roll solo at the end, again reflecting Cruel Hand’s relative expansion of their musical boundaries on this album. The tough-as-nails number “Rotations of Hurt” is another strong point of the album, providing more highly-moshable rhythms and infectious guitar riffs for the enthusiasts. “The Bottom” is a perfect finisher, and is perhaps the most heavy song on the album. Gang vocals support a furious Linkovich before a couple of dope breakdowns, catchy two-step riffs and ever more shredding.
“Lock & Key” confirms Cruel Hand as one of the better contemporary American hardcore bands and shows that they’re worth every bit of the hype. They’ve progressed leaps and bounds since 2007’s “Without a Pulse”, unquestionably developing their own style with “Prying Eyes” which has only been reaffirmed by “Lock & Key”. Amongst many bands creating hardcore in a similar thrashy vein, Cruel Hand are particularly stand-out due to their undeniable energy both live and on record. This album is extremely solid start to finish, and is arguably the best hardcore album of 2010 thus far.
1. ‘Lock & Key’
3.’Day Or Darkness’
6.’One Cold Face’
7.’Rotations Of Hurt’