Until very recently, there has been precious little information available about the Curse These Metal Hands project. What’s more, the few scraps that had made their way into the public domain haven’t exactly made what one might expect more explicit. A collaboration between members of two active and upcoming bands, a project name culled from a sitcom, a photoshoot dressed in faintly ludicrous attire, a ‘making of’ video that is at least 75% giggling, references to Thin Lizzy and Elton John in press releases and just two live appearances. On this scant evidence, you would be forgiven for assuming that Curse These Metal Hands is a novelty or parody proposition.
But you would be wrong.
So let’s just back up a bit. Originally conceived to add a little unique spice to the ArcTanGent 2018 mix, Curse These Metal Hands brings the guitar/vocal duo Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale of sludge monsters Conjurer together with guitarist/vocalist Joe Clayton, bassist Luke Rees and drummer Nick Watmough from their more experimental Holy Roar labelmates Pijn. Together, they have concocted a particularly distinctive and uplifting cocktail that takes recognisable elements from both of their main projects, stirs in a few more, and then takes the listener on a surprisingly scenic journey that still fits neatly into a half-hour, early afternoon festival slot.
“High Spirits” is the first of four compositions on offer here, and spends the first two minutes of its nine minute runtime gently building towards a particularly stately main riff, but just two minutes after that it takes a brief diversion into blast beat territory before slowing down again. “High Spirits” feels particularly appropriately named, as it is clear throughout the song – and indeed the release as a whole – that those involved in its creation are having a tremendous amount of fun. Curse These Metal Hands is most certainly not a joke, but there is an unmistakable joyousness and spontaneity that has very obviously bled through from the practice room onto the recordings themselves, and that is particularly infectious.
Three of the four songs here nudge against ten minute durations, and their sprawling structures take in gorgeous post-metal soundscapes, gargantuan sludgy grooves and are peppered with deft little touches and a liberal garnish of seventies arena rock harmonised histrionics. Long-standing followers of the UK prog underground may hear hints of noughties adventurers Twin Zero in their sound as well as fellow labelmates Ohhms, but most succinctly Curse These Metal Hands sounds like Baroness jamming with Isis in a particularly good mood. The three longer expeditions are counter-balanced “Endeavour”, 140 seconds of monolithic, Bossk-like sludge and grunt.
With three guitars all being held by equally distinctive vocalists, the band have a wealth of textures and flavours at their disposal, giving the album variety on top of the remarkable sense of cohesion. It’s very easy to forget that Curse These Metal Hands is a side project squeezed into the already hectic schedules of two disparate and busy bands. However, this in turn may be a major contributory factor to the immediate and playful ambience of the music. This is not music that has been written to satisfy a hungry, expectant fanbase, or to meet the demands of a recording contract – but more the product of five like-minded individuals setting themselves up in a rehearsal room, locking the door, shouting “GO!” and seeing what comes out. In an age where music is increasingly written by individuals hunched over laptops on their own, the difference is both startling and refreshing. Despite this apparently fluid, jam-based approach, they have still worked in some neat flourishes. In particular, during a loud-to-quiet transition in “The Pall” the guitar motif is gradually transferred from electric to acoustic. After the truly epic outro riff of “Sunday”, there’s even the briefest little reprise of the main riff from “High Spirits” to neatly close the loop on the album.
Curse These Metal Hands is an absolute triumph. It doesn’t attempt to challenge conventions, answer any of life’s big questions or advance any stone-faced agendas. It is simply a glorious and life-affirming indulgence in the uncomplicated joys of meaty riffs and quiet-loud dynamics. As a great man once said, life is all dynamics. Curse These Metal Hands will undoubtedly invoke head-banging, but that head will also be wearing a big daft grin instead of a grimace. In testing, turbulent times, it is a thirty minute vacation from the real world – music made for the sake of making music alone, and right now, we all need that. Certainly, fans of Pijn and Conjurer should listen to the album at their very earliest convenience, but even those unfamiliar with their day jobs are likely to find a great deal to enjoy here.
Curse These Metal Hands is out on Holy Roar records on 16th August 2019, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.