Album Review: Hands of Despair’s Bereft
We first encountered Maxime Côté as the techie behind the boards for all-female blackened death quintet Aenygmist’s exquisite (and only) album, Creation Born of Trauma. As that album had us shitting invisible citrus for months, we were both tantalized and hesitant upon hearing that Côté himself was a guitarist and band leader of his own progressive behemoth Hands of Despair. Tantalized, because here was an invitation to experience more killer extreme tunes; hesitant, because let’s face it, the probability of overreaching is high, and sucking isn’t, like, unheard of.
Smashing through even our highest hopes, Hands of Despair’s Hereafter was a powerhouse of progressive acumen clad in the brutality of the blackest, deathliest of metals; Côté’s apparently hyperbolic suggestion of “Opeth on steroids” turned out to be a valid descriptor. And for all of Hereafter’s heft, the band’s second album, Bereft, is even better. Bereft carves recognizable chunks of flesh from myriad subgenres, splicing them together with clever bass lines, various skillful vocal deliveries and guitar tones that hum with anticipation. Nothing feels piecemeal or overwrought. Ten- or even fifteen-minute journeys feel confident and essential, rather than overstuffed with ideas; and while most bands who routinely swing for epic song lengths might dither away shorter tracks on barely musical mumbo jumbo, the paltry four minutes of “Veil” is as fully formed a song as you could hope. What Secrets of the Sky have perfected in doomier strains, Hands of Despair accomplish with a bit more gallop and grit.
Hands of Despair’s Bereft is out now on Deathbound. Stream and purchase it here.