EP REVIEW: Savage Hands – Barely Alive

Release Date: March 2nd 2018
Label: SharpTone Records
Website: www.savagehands.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/savagehands
Twitter: www.twitter.com/savagehandsmd


With a name like Savage Hands, some might expect the Maryland five-piece to deliver a relentless, pounding sound that doesn’t let up. While that is the case for the most part, the post-hardcore troupe’s outset is a far less one-dimensional than that, as demonstrated excellently on their debut release, ‘Barely Alive’.

While the EP doesn’t stray too far from the path of post-hardcore, what’s on offer within that particular sound-structure is very appealing, harnessing the intensity of the genre and balancing it well with an almost hardcore-cum-emo style. Be it the ferocious ‘RED’ and the EP’s title-track, with their headbanging riffs and memorable vocal hooks that wedge themselves into your brain, while also not forgetting some powerful, well-placed breakdowns.

This relentless riotous rock is almost non-stop, as ‘Unconditional’ and ‘Know It All’ continue to offer another couple of doses of bustling, bruising instrumentation.

‘Taken’ brings this rush of energy to a very sombre stop, as we’re taken from driven distortion into a track solely made up of acoustic guitars and laid back melodies. That’s not to say that it doesn’t fit, for it definitely does. In fact it feels less like an obligatory softer moment, and more like one that’s been carefully orchestrated and placed to give the listener a breather while still delivering one of the more memorable pieces on the record too.

Right across the EP, the group deliver a composed balance between the shredding, scorching riffs, technically sound, dominating beats, and vocals that dip in and out of silk-coated cleans and gritty screams. A lot of bands in the scene have trouble striking a balance between full-on screams or not enough, but Savage Hands blur the lines between backing growls and bursts of intense, front-centred screams. It’s a mature sound, and not one that you’d necessarily associate with a band just getting going either.

As debut EPs go, ‘Barely Alive’ gives a good account of Savage Hands, both creatively and technically. There are stomping choruses, busy breakdowns, and sticky vocal hooks – all things that you’d expect to find in a post-hardcore release, yet the overall finesse of the EP suggests that it’s been done with an air of resounding maturity, which just raises the bar just that little bit higher.