“Drowning In The Mainstream” is the latest release out of the Hand of Fear camp, and isn’t your typical heavy metal album, with most tracks chiming at around a minute in duration. However, don’t let the duration of said tracks deter you, because the analogy ‘big things come in small packages’ is definitely applicable to this album. Where a couple of tracks attempt to be bold but just fall short of the mark, majority of the other tracks step up to the proverbial plate and smack it for a homerun. Contrary to the album’s title, there is nothing mainstream about what you’re about to listen to, so prepare yourselves for a somewhat unique experience.
Hand of Fear is comprised of band members Mark Jenkins (vocals), James Salter (guitar), Jeremy Skippen (guitar/vocals), Francis Collaco (guitar), Myles Thomson (drums), and Vasco Collaco (bass/screams)
The album opens up with ‘Are You Blind’, showcasing both tenacity and speed, before segueing into ‘Evil Deeds’, packing an even bigger punch in a shorter period of time. The standout in both opening tracks is definitely that of the instrumentals, the vocals unfortunately don’t pierce the veil as much as they should, however with that being said they’re not terrible, they just lack that finish to stand out above the rest.
‘Aim Fire’, although reminiscent by name with Bullet For My Valentine, is where the album really starts to take off, and form its identity. The opening grind and screech of guitar strings, before breaking into all out instrumental havoc will have heavy metal lovers jumping out of their seats.
Horror and Heavy Metal collide with ‘Choices’, the track opening to Tobin Bell’s line “live or die, make your choice”, famously known from within world-renowned horror series SAW. The brutality doesn’t end with Jigsaw’s traps, but ensures through instrumental performances that would have even the heaviest of fans quaking at the knees.
‘Lies’ is a perfect combination of earthy growls, and precise instrumental performance. Its deep tones create an ambiance that translates the lyrics beautifully. ‘Shit Shifter’ is aptly named due to the inclusion of Donald Trump. Need I say more?
The opening of ‘The Serpent’ is one of the stronger performances that these guys have delivered thus far, and what follows throughout is no different. The drum work of Myles needs praise here; it’s normally the work of the guitarists that soak up all the attention when it comes to admiring the music a band puts forward, but this work has shone through with the clashes and clangs of epic proportion.
‘EconoKill’ boasts combination of speed and brutality, with some of the best guitar work on the album thus far. ‘Belief’ isn’t as full on as the previous tracks, which is a little bit of a letdown (personally) as their tenacity and maniacal combinations are a treat to listen to. However, ‘FilthFlag’ kicks in and puts its hand up as a contender for the album’s best track. The instrumentals and vocals culminate in what is the most clean cut performance the band has put forth (thus far), and I absolutely loved it!
Maybe Hand of Fear were saving their stronger performances for the second half of the album, because ‘Entropy’ is an absolute banger! The drum work again pumping out at high levels of awesomeness, and the guitar work purely speaks for itself. Another clever title, or sales pitch? You tell me, because ‘You Must Buy’ maintains the level of performance at a high from start to finish. It’s as if the band clicked and found somewhat of a comfort zone within the last couple of tracks, because they’re really starting to tear it up!
The slower grind of guitar to open ‘CirclePit’ is awesome, as is the genuine beat of the track, although whether deliberate or not the vocals of this track is pure inaudible noise and detracts (I feel) from the overall performance. Then there’s ‘HeadSet Guy’ which is literally one line of vocals and a quick burst of instrumental. Is it necessary? I’m not entirely sure. What I am sure of is they’re back to their best with track ‘Pulled Pork’. With an opening pulled straight from a television ad, combined with sudden explosion of guitar and drums, we’re treated to an experience that shows how good these guys can truly be!
We’ve come to the end of the album, and ‘Info Wars’ rounds out what has been a very eclectic grouping of tracks, to say the least. From the opening second your eardrums cop an absolute pounding with the dial cranked to eleven, and an audio assault that slaps you right in the face. An acquired taste, but worthy finish.
I’m not going to lie, some people will listen to this and not like it one bit. Others, and I believe a vast majority, will appreciate its deliverance for what it’s worth and it enjoy the experience. Did I enjoy it? Definitely. Is it flawless? No. But as I said at the beginning, be sure to give it a chance. My biggest discrepancy with the album was the length of tracks – I wanted to hear more, because some of the tracks present were absolutely brilliant!