Album Review: Hands Like Houses – Dissonants

We were first introduced to the new sound Hands Like Houses had been crafting with the single “I Am” in March 2015. It marked a new approach to their music; combining the heavier nature of 2012’s Ground Dweller and the more melodic approach from 2013’s Unimagine. When Dissonants was announced, it made perfect sense for “I Am” to be the album opener; setting the tone and direction of the album early so listeners and fans would know what to expect. While Ground Dweller featured heavy instrumentation, its production was jarring and made for a pretty difficult listen. As with Unimagine, the band enlisted the help of producer James Paul Wisner to continue the elevation process they had undergone prior; but would the heavier approach pay off or would it dissuade long-time fans?

[tw-toggle title=”About Hands Like Houses”]
Genre: Post Hardcore, Alternative Rock
Label: Rise Records
Release: February 26, 2016
Connect: Facebook | Twitter

To put it briefly: Yes. While the whole album isn’t your generic post hardcore album with your typical back and forth between harsh and clean vocals, Dissonants throws in a new element that the band previously never utilized — screams. Don’t mistake this for a typical post hardcore album and don’t expect constant growls as these are appropriately placed and wisely used. What the band said rings true. ”We’re never going to be a screaming band, but if a part calls for more aggression then we’re not going to shy away from that. We’re not going to become some clone of another band, we’ll do it our way.”. That’s what this album is full of; more aggression partly due to the harsher vocals from Trenton Woodley, but more so due to the heavier instrumentation. The first half of the album is where the screaming is more evident, especially with “Colourblind” being one of the heaviest songs in their discography, and featuring the closest thing they’ll get to a ”breakdown”.

Hands Like Houses – Colourblind (Official Music Video)

Merch: AUS: iTunes: For better or for worse, our vision of the future’s getting blurred. Between the black and white, naming every shade of grey has left us colourblind. We are all for none and none for all. We are the sickness and the symptom and the cure.

What makes many of the songs sound heavier is the more apparent use of bass lines (“Glass House” and “New Romantics” most notably) all thanks to bassist Joel Tyrrell. In this department, the entire band is at the top of their game. The music feels more concentrated, sounding tighter and more cohesive than ever. At the same time, it misses the whimsical, magical sounding nature of Unimagine that made it sound so unique. Songs like “Oceandust” had a much more experimental and unproven sound, which helped break it up between the heavier songs, something that isn’t found here. Fortunately, what Dissonants lacks in a slower, experimental approach is more than made up for with the exploration of the heavier side of Hands Like Houses. While the departure of keyboardist Jamal Sabet (who left early in 2015) didn’t come as too much of a hit to the band, the synths & keys do take a backseat to the rest of the band and the overall instrumentation that was found in past releases. While there are parts where you can hear the different synths & keys that used to course through their music (“Division Symbols” and “Momentary” most notably), the band has definitely concentrated more on its riffwork. The harder approach definitely worked for them, even if it’s a bit more straightforward than previous albums. If Ground Dweller was them searching for their sound, Unimagine was them finding their sound and Dissonants is them finally knowing what they set out to do when they started the band.

One of the few disappointing moments on the album is the closer ”Bloodlines”, which left a lot to be desired. It’s a great song, but it doesn’t pack in a punch like “A Fire on a Hill” did. While 2013’s closer slowly crescendo-ed into a bombastic finale for Unimagine, “Bloodlines” just finishes off what the band set out to do on Dissonants, which was to deliver hard-hitting tracks that sets them apart from their peers.

Hands Like Houses – I Am (Official Music Video)

Merch: iTunes: The disconnect Is welling up, And good intentions are not enough. Your words are weary, Their hearts are strained, And idle vows find the deepest pains. I’m sick, I’m tired Of hollow hope, Of promises, empty, Your way with words, They’re feeding back inside my head, Oh, the things I could say that won’t change a thing.

Dissonants is an album by a band who knows who they are, what they want to create and how they want to sound. There really isn’t a low-point in terms of musicianship as the songs are packed with hard hitting riffs, catchy hooks that are sure to have you singing along and pure aggression. Hands Like Houses have slowly, but surely been building up hype and with the new album, they’re ready to take over the scene.

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