| I'll admit that I've been cooling off on The Hidden Hand lately. Once the rush of excitement accompanying their first album, 'Divine Propaganda' was over, I went on to other things. Later listening sessions had some of the '...Propaganda' tunes losing their luster, with the whole album seeming uneven and slightly unfocused. Well worth buying mind you, but not wearing as well as I had hoped. I dunno, maybe my chakras were in the dumpster, or something. Heh.|
That was the state of things when 'Mother * Teacher * Destroyer' arrived in my mailbox. In a sense that was the best state to be in, because my feelings were rather neutral as I hit "play". Wow. 'Mother...' is in every sense a better album than '...Propaganda'. The first album started a fire which eventually cooled, but this one is a doom conflagration that looks like it'll be around for the long haul. Someone wise must be in charge, because the group has honed their presentation to a tee, emphasizing their many strengths and cutting back on some other elements. They're still concerned with exposing the structure of deception upon which our daily lives are built, but it seems to be a bit less prominent this time. Those that had trouble with that on the first album will definitely want to give 'Mother...' a chance. The shouted group vocals that peppered the first album are not in evidence either, much to my relief.
What we've got this time is a much better integrated album of progressive, psychedelic doom. This is not a "Wino album" at all; it's a feast of friends all of whom shine equally. Actually, I think the one who's improved most, and brought the whole group up a notch, is bassist Bruce Falkinburg, whose vocals and songwriting have grown markedly. Drummer Dave Henessey is still mightily in the pocket, and Wino is his usual extraordinary self. How does he keep pulling this marvelous heavy tuneage out of his hat year after year, when most others burn out after a single album? The remarkable thing is that despite his rep, he's just another player in this group, and that Bruce and Dave bring as much to the table as he does, and its all good. It takes a certain maturity to keep your ego in check like that, but it won't be any surprise to anyone who's met him. Anyway, the album is a combination of heavy doom ('natch), psychedelic vocal harmonies that sometimes seem to reach back to the 60s for inspiration, and progressive elements that bring English groups like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull to mind. All in their druggy 70s heyday of course: none of that later crap! And let's not forget the presence of that all-important 60s-70s hard rock underground vibe from the likes of Blue Cheer and Grand Funk. The lyrics are socially critical and/or allegorical and the playing is fluid yet as tight as Dave's snare head. As usual when Wino's involved, there's a heavy emphasis on melody. This is a band of equals that is hitting its stride for real.
The Hidden Hand is just now starting to fulfill the promise of 'Divine Propaganda'. They're becoming one of the most interesting bands in the whole heavy underground, shredding boundaries like the Tasmanian Devil shreds trees. If they keep going like this, there will just be no holding them back.
1. The Crossing
2. Half Mast
4. Draco Vibration
5. Black Ribbon
8. Travesty as Usual
9. Coffin Lily
10. Sons of Kings
11. The Deprogramming of Tom Delay
Duration : Approx. 48 minutes
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