This review originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in February 2014
The guys in Handed to the Thousands understand heavy. I don’t say this because their latest effort, Carve Away, I Still Remain, is bone-rumblin’, knock-your-pants-off heavy. I say this because it isn’t. The truth is that you have to know the rules in order to break them. Handed to the Thousands have clearly studied the excessively de-tuned breakdowns and incomprehensibly guttural vocals of their melodic hardcore contemporaries. Studied, and then rejected. What results is a mature and balanced eight-song EP that will both surprise and delight those familiar with the more aggressive genres, without giving in to stale clichés.
This is not to say that Carve Away, I Still Remain is not a heavy album, and to approach these songs with such expectations would be a mistake. Rather, what you’ll hear is an aggressive band in a state of flux, migrating away from the tried-and-true yet now outdated heavy genre tactics. Gone are the low, throaty screams of the past, replaced now by more emotive and high-pitched yells. “The choice to dwell is mine alone,” vocalist Oliver Torres screams at the conclusion of “Deep Wells.” Yet, ironically, this album does anything but dwell, because breakdowns are no longer at the center of this universe. Sure, they exist, and sure, they hit hard. But the songs don’t sit on those grooves any longer than they should. They move on. For many heavy bands, a song exists to reach the breakdown. For Handed to the Thousands, a song exists to reach the end. The album’s title track is perhaps the biggest purveyor of this concept, despite a four-minute length. This song pulls a page from the pop-punk playbook, moving through every verse, chorus, or breakdown with blistering pace.
While this EP doesn’t re-invent anything, it does have surprising moments. The late-album acoustic track is by no means a novel concept, even on a metal record. But if you’re going to borrow, you ought to borrow from the best. So when the beautifully layered vocals on “Growing Routine” begin to soar, a la Between the Buried and Me’s softer moments, it doesn’t sound like your average acoustic ballad. And when the final track, “Ma,” ends with a voicemail from guitarist Nick Kuzevski’s grandmother playing on top of a dirty bass line, reminiscent of the way recorded voicemails and phone calls have been used by Drake and other hip-hop artists, it puts a refreshing emotional spin on an already powerful song. It’s choices like these that will keep Handed to the Thousands far ahead of their peers, long after the melodic hardcore genre’s infatuation with breakdowns has faded into nothing.