Of all the bands who find themselves unfortunately lumped into Warped Tour’s strikingly restrictive boundaries, Hands Like Houses are presented as the greatest casualties. Whereas their de facto peers ‘progress’ with the ever-familiar and ever-stale formula of scream-sing-chug, the Canberra quintet have thrived through genuine innovation, taking a basic shape of huge, straight-laced rock and decorating it with a galvanising coat of electronics. No time was it shown better than in 2013’s sophomore album Unimagine, an incredibly diverse, powerful album that pushed Hands Like Houses to a point that threatened to see them break into massive things. And with new album Dissonants, those massive things are now within touching distance.
While this third album fails to top its predecessor, it brilliantly makes way for the next phase of their career, seeing a sound somewhere between Unimagine and their debut Ground Dweller. It makes for a heavier Hands Like Houses, but still retaining the same slick, anthemic qualities that always made them brilliant. The likes of Perspectives and Colourblind are imbued with a crunch that comes with a usage of screamed vocals as an accompaniment, and still fit the anthemic mold this band have carved for themselves, while Glasshouse and Bloodlines soar in the way that Hands Like Houses have made seem like child’s play. It’s truly bracing stuff, especially when put into context the bands they’ve become linked with by default. While many of them attempt to crowbar in electronics in order to sound ‘modern’ or ‘futuristic’, Hands Like Houses achieve this simply by not going overboard. The rockier elements are favoured more highly, and it does a world of difference in the way Dissonants vaults over the competition.
It also helps that each of the five members has a keen grasp on how to maximise their output to make a great album. It may be straightforward rock in a post-hardcore coating, but each component is so tightly woven together that the entire unit feels cohesive, but they still shine in their own right (especially the drumming from Matt Parkitny, which really comes into its own on this album). But of course, the ace in the hole is vocalist Trenton Woodley. He’s quickly becoming one of the most talented vocalists in the game, and Dissonants does nothing to harm his reputation whatsoever. Motion Sickness sees him exercising his softer, lower range for a track that only builds in expanse, while I Am roars along with a riff mirrored in Woodley’s snarl.
For all the praise it’s due though, Dissonants just about fails to surpass Unimagine, but not by any huge degree. The entirety of Unimagine glimmered with thrills and originality, and while that’s not to say that this album doesn’t, it can’t quite capture such a feeling to the same degree. That’s not to say that Dissonants is a bad album though – far from it. It’s the kind of album that represents a natural progression of both a band and a genre, seeing Hands Like Houses taking the next natural stepping stone and landing on exactly what arena rock should sound like in 2016. Not only that, but it does so in a way that is devoid of filler or unnecessary faffing around, making for a sleek, alluring album. And if this is any sort of indication as to where Hands Like Houses are heading in the future, it’s an exciting prospect indeed.
For fans of: Slaves (US), Young Guns, I The Mighty
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Dissonants’ by Hands Like Houses is out now on Rise Records.