The vitriol and frenzy displayed by Rough Hands is admirable. Their self-titled, four song EP is hardcore at its nastiest, angriest, and most energetic– but while its visceral sound is something be admired, the EP’s unfocused nature and one-trick-pony style hold it back from being truly exceptional.
“Dilute” opens the album with a cacophonous, almost grindcore intensity. My immediate reaction was a deep affection for this blood pumping chaos, never discerning a syllable but soaking in its fury. Rough Hands’ strength is in their delivery, you can feel their passion, their rage– everything is felt rather than understood. The second track follows in this suit, although “Maledictus” has the title of a death metal song, it’s hardcore to the bone– featuring breakneck speed interspersed with brief chugging breakdowns. “Toska” is a more deliberate and dynamic song– possessing a spacey bridge that sounds like it could’ve popped out of a Refused song, then launching into a heavy, riff based ending section reminiscent of Black Flag’s sludge metal days.
At a whopping two minutes and fifty seconds, “Spite” is Rough Hands’ longest song on the EP and possibly the best. Amidst the phlegmy screams and blast beats there is also a new emphasis on post-hardcore-ish lead work. “Spite” works hard to combine many of Rough Hands’ best elements, and although its experimentalism isn’t as daring as on “Toska,” it is these flourishes that add dimension to their sound. Unfortunately, they’re introduced far too late into the EP, rendering the last two songs fun, but not necessarily cohesive.
A part of me loves Rough Hands’ EP; it’s the same part of me that loves mindless, cathartic release. Energy for the sake energy, passion for the sake of passion. Rough Hands bring it all in spades, and I have to admit– there’s a certain magic here. But the other part of me sees a young band who haven’t quite found their voice yet, and as thrilling as they can be, their lack of focus can’t be ignored. Rough Hands haven’t written a masterpiece yet, but I for one can’t wait for the day they do.