Hand (curiously typed hAND officially) is a relatively new band originating in Sussex, England. Originally formed as an electronic duo, the band eventually evolved into a creative and exciting blend of alternative rock, gothic metal, and doom metal with a distinct progressive overtone. The music, with the Gothic twinge lead by the singer/bassist Kat Ward, gives an exciting new dynamic to an oftentimes rather dull genre as the band's latest album, Breathless, amply displays. The melancholic tracks on the album burst with passion and drive, pushing the album to new heights of sonic enjoyment. This fantastic new release will keep most listeners tuned into the music, and I highly recommend it.
The most obvious feature of this album that stands out to me is the presence of female vocals - not a common sight in most metal, and almost unheard of in the progressive metal scene. Although many bands who utilize female vocals don't really click with me, as oftentimes they cannot match the power of the music or do not fit the feel of the composition, hAND wonderfully fuses the style of Ward's vocals with the feeling of the music, making for a very pleasant and engaging dynamic to the already impressive music. The vocal sections are mellow and laid back, which matches her vocals perfectly, and the instrumental side of the music rises up to meet the challenge with often times more complex and upbeat songwriting.
The instrumental side of the album, as I said, completes the album in the way a yin and yang is a complete circle. The vocal side is mellow and laid back, with a few exceptions, while the instrumental is heavier with more intense and "metal" roots, making the album a wonderfully dynamic composition. The music is simple and subtle, powerful yet reserved, and melancholic and uplifting. It isn't overly virtuosic, yet has enough skill and passion in it to give it punch and power. Each of the three members contributes a quintessential part to the music, which makes the music seem full and complete, which is often difficult to manage with only three instruments contributing to the music.
In the end, the music presents itself as a manifestation of the band's maturity; the song writing is complex enough as to be progressive and enjoyable yet not overcomplex, the production of the album is clean as so the album has great production yet is not slick and unlistenable, and the lyrics are enjoyable and deep enough as not to seem ambiguous. The nine tracks display an incredible amount of diversity with countless influences and atmospheres meshing as one coherent piece of music. The band has certainly done a wonderful job with this album. 4 stars.