Album Review: Hand of Doom - Stray From the Path
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Don’t let the gentle acoustic introduction of ‘The Endless Path’ fool you, for the rest of this debut album by London trio Hand of Doom is about as soothing as a jackhammer to a hangover. The segue into the brooding menace of ‘Permafrost’ signifies the change of tempo and mood, but it’s only when the band really kick in that the abrasive nature that clearly lurks below comes to the surface. It’s a horrid, disjointed, raw vibe that confronts you. Andreas Morelli-Mae and Gus Everitt deliver visceral and coarse style that isn’t going to please everyone, whilst the music is sludgy, short staccato bursts interspersed with more monolithic time signatures.
‘Barbed Wire Noose’ isn’t going to ease the nerves either. It’s a blistering, aggressive, and chaotic rampage, the vocals are shouted and screamed whilst Jonathan Hanen lets loose with a barrage of double bass pedals and a battering ram finish. It’s gnarly, punky, and utterly incoherent. If they were fuelled by a beer, it would be some nasty 9% from a supermarket in Belgium.
The action is relentless. ‘Bleeding Mind’ has a muddied, ferocious drum sound that suggests on first listen that the song is stuck. You soon release that Hanen is absolutely battering his way around his kit. It’s a cacophony of carnage that uncomfortably grates. You’ll need to be focused on the extreme if you find the urge to get stuck into this, although I would imagine they fit the bill for Damnation or Arctangent, for they have an alternative appeal.
There’s plenty more ear splitting, jarring high intensity volume to come though. ‘Creeping Black’ hurts the ears, such is the intensity of the aural assault whilst ‘Blades’ is almost old school Venom in its riffage although it is one of several tracks where the drums drown out most of what is going on. There’s an imbalance in the mix which means that when Hanen lets rip with the blast beats, everything else becomes a blur. Somewhere in there is a raging burst of aggression but it only surfaces when Morelli-Mae and Everitt really let loose.
When things slow and the pace is less frenetic, we then encounter the harrowing delivery of ‘Living Corpse’. It’s a slowly building track, which once into its stride is another dominated by the sheer bullish drum sound. Even a very nasty gritty vocals performance which at least distracts cannot save it as the guitar solo is buried deep in the mix. I want my solos ripping my face off, not becoming a minor irritant. The chunky title track that finishes things off is another punishing slab of riffing, razor gargling vocals and a thumping drum sound that once again dominates before the outro leads us back to the where we came in with another gentle acoustic piece.
I found this a challenging, at times uncomfortable listen. It’s raw, like an onion being rubbed in the eyes. There’s a market for this style of heavy. It’s just not mine. If you fancy something to blow away those Christmas cobwebs, then ‘Stray from the Path’ is probably the ideal piece of music to do that.