Review: “Model Citizen” by HAMMERHANDS

Recorded at B-Town Sound Studio by NJ Borreta (guitar & vocals), Collin Young (guitar & vocals), Jon Galletly (drums) and Justin Hunt (bass) collectively known as HAMMERHANDS, “Model Citizen” is the third album from the Mississauga, Ontario Canada quartet. It follows their 2013 debut “Glaciers” and 2016 sophomore release “Largo Forte”, the later of which is critically acclaimed. Known for being about the trip rather than the destination with vast sonic soundscapes of Stoner Sludge and Noise Rock, it’s time to take a walk down the dusty road.

“Pleasure Island” stomps though some groovy Stoner Sludge Rock with a menacing undertone before it steps up into the chorus. Referencing the album title in its lyrics and building into a climbing lead guitar part that breaks down into a classic Sludge riff it’s a real tone setter for an album that promises much. “MAXIMUM Beta” is your classic angst laden lyric about lacking the motivation to do things and coming second place in just about everything. It’s forceful aggression and unrelenting barrage of Stoner Sludge Metal riffs shift in tone to create an almost downtempo break in the harshness of the feedback. “Do It Right” sees the same creepy vocal tones as the opening track with an almost spoken word story telling style employed over a mid-tempo groove. It steps out from under the paving slab of its own heaviness for the chorus by changing the vocal tone to more of a lost roar while the crushing sonic trudge is maintained to wonderful effect. So many bands could learn from the level of control in the musicianship of this.

The storytelling styled vocals return for “I’m Not Here” which features some almost anti-melody guitar work and a glorious climbing lead flourish that is accompanied by the aching screams of the lyrics. Bringing with it a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds vibe “Too Many Rivers” is a classic bluesy track that showcases an almost entirely different side to HAMMERHANDS. Sticking to a sound that is left of what they have created earlier on the record, this cut has all the epic grandeur that the band can create with a huge drum sound, classic elongated lead work and the sort of vocals that leave others for dust. It should be no surprise that PJ Harvey is an influence – they covered “To Bring You My Love” a few years back. If you wanted a Stoner Sludge Metal tune to fill the void left by Down then this is the one for you. Changing down the gears once more “Dad Sludge” stomps around in a fuzzy guitar sound with evil vocals that is only broken for an eclectic and off kilter guitar solo moment that makes the tune.

Bass driven with hints of influences like Kyuss and perhaps Jesus Lizard, “That Awful Sound” strips back the fuzzy guitar layer of the majority of the album, instead opting for a more math rock orientated guitar tone. Building on constantly shifting tempos and cleaner vocals it’s perhaps the obvious single, especially with the sound of the church bells and inaudible speech that closes the song which could easily be removed in the edit. Indeed, if it wasn’t for that bassline bleeding through the mix over the melodic guitars and drawling vocals, you may struggle to identify it as one that belongs on the album. That’s not a bad thing, as it gives a sense of refresh to the album as a whole and perhaps showcases where the band could be destined to go in a few albums time. The opening lines of guitar work of “Not In The Cards” could have you thinking of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. The harsh spoken word vocal rasps a tale that could be a scene in a Western Movie of yesteryear. It’s a fine example of what the band are capable of when they write a song for the sake of the song rather than it needing to conform or fit to a specific mould. Again orientating around the gravitational pull of Justin Hunt’s bassline “Bastard Jesus” serves to remind that sometimes saints must sin in order to get past an immovable object. Its long drawn out vibe is littered with nuances that come out over multiple listens including an epic drawn out solo that appears for the final minute or so of the track. At times this is an almost hypnotic album with tension that builds and falls with a sense of impending doom [7.5/10]

Track listing

1. Pleasure Island
2. MAXIMUM Beta
3. Do It Right
4. I’m Not Here
5. Too Many Rivers
6. Dad Sludge
7. That Awful Sound
8. Not In The Cards
9. Bastard Jesus

“Model Citizen” by HAMMERHANDS is out on 19th July and will be available everywhere that’s good!

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