Friday, December 05, 2008

Cruel Hand - Prying Eyes CD Review

Bridge 9 Records is usually the label to turn to when you want to get your fill of quality hardcore. Being home to stellar acts such as Betrayed, Ruiner, Crime in Stereo, Have Heart, and Ceremony, as well as many others, you can usually be assured that any new signing by the label is going to, at the very least, be decent. You can also usually be relatively sure of exactly what any new signee will sound like — at least one of Bridge 9's already signed bands. B9 have consistency going for them, and with Cruel Hand’s Prying Eyes they continue the trend of signing solid hardcore bands.

It would be remiss to not point out from the get go that Prying Eyes is strictly a 12 track hardcore stomp-fest, nothing more, nothing less. With only one song breaking the 2:30 barrier, the band is quick to get to the point. There is little to no deviation from the established hardcore paradigm, with the one small exception being the occasional metal flavored guitar lick. “Hounds” is probably the easiest song to listen to in order to notice the sharp, old-school, metal-tinged guitar tones. They’re sprinkled throughout the rest of the album as well, but the predominant musical theme on the album is straight ahead hardcore with plenty of opportunities for tastefully placed breakdowns.

Not quite up to par with many of Bridge 9’s other releases this year, Prying Eyes seems to spend most of its run time oscillating between speedy chord progressions and slowed down stomps. This isn’t to say that the transitions aren’t well done or missing, but each song tends to either be purely speed focused, purely stomp focused, or a straight up 50/50 mix of the two. There is rarely an in between pace, which leaves this album extremely lacking in the variation department making repeated listens quite dull. The metallic sheen on a lot of standard hardcore conventions lends something interesting to the presentation, but the underlying hardcore template is still being utilized quite heavily.

Also of note for all of you CD buyers out there, the packaging for this album is unfortunately below that of some of B9’s more recent offerings, such as the latest Crime in Stereo or Ceremony albums. Hardcore fans usually flip for great packaging, so it would have been nice to have something other than a single sheet of paper for an insert. I haven’t gotten my hands on the vinyl, but it looks like they did a nice job with the record itself being a smooth purple.

Beyond the CD packaging and the narrow scope of Cruel Hand’s brand of hardcore, this release is entertaining enough for hardcore junkies. However, as is the case with many recent hardcore releases, Prying Eyes doesn’t jump into “good” territory but is instead stuck in “good for the genre” territory.

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