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01. Piles of Burning Bodies
02. Tourniquet Girl
03. Hammer of the Gods
04. The Possession
05. Beckoning the Glass Cased
07. A Lurid Account of Mass Murder
08. Momentary Alphabetic Convergence
09. Concentrated Contamination
10. Distress Patterns
11. Like Tar
2003 saw the release of Behind Inquisition - a promising debut for With Dead Hands Rising. Okay, so it didn't re-invent the wheel, but it holds up surprisingly well after five years. But times were different; deathcore had yet to become the wretchedly codified sea of rehashed bree-downs it is now, where bands switch from faux-death metal to faux-hardcore with an awkward thunk.
Expect Hell sees the band's first release in four years. They've parted ways with original vocalist Colin Strandberg, the production values have gotten higher, and the market is now overpopulated with cookie-cutter soundalikes.
Accordingly, With Dead Hands Rising has changed things up, ostensibly to match pace with the changes in the genre. Newcomer Burke VanRaalte's vocals are much more straightforward, sticking almost exclusively to a throaty growl - a disquietingly monotonous contrast to Strandberg's deft alternation between high and low register screaming. As such, the album suffers from VanRaalte's stiff delivery as much as his inability to keep up with Daniel Koppy's competent drumming. In fact, the only time he doesn't seem to be overextending his lung capacity to play catch-up is during the numerous breakdowns - which, for the most part, aren't as utterly trite as the mindless chugging of the bands' erstwhile peers. Ty Inhoffer and Logan Branjord's playing is appropriately intricate and menacing, but with the bottom-heavy production and the disjointed interaction between the drumming and vocal rhythms, the words "muddled clusterfuck" barely encompass the results.
I try to cut a band some slack after suffering numerous line-up changes before a release; obviously, if it's not the same people working on the new record, it's going to have a different sound. But at some points during Expect Hell, it sounds less like a band adjusting to a new line-up and more like a band that doesn't have their hearts in it. The best example here would be the disparity in song writing between Behind Inquisition and Expect Hell. The instrumental closer for Behind Inquisition, "Paralysis," had a decent sense of dynamics and worked well to close out the album. On the other hand, "Momentary Alphabetic Convergence" plods along, wearing a hole through the same guitar line and fiddling with the mix to alternately emphasize and hide some amateurish piano work in a ham fisted effort to create some tension within the track. Even the track's placement is awkward, as after the mellow, droning guitar lines fade out, the band returns to the same thrashy attack as before for three more tracks. The sudden slowdown does little more than confuse things with an utterly arbitrary change of pace.
With Dead Hands Rising has joined the ever-growing ranks of deathcore bands that are all too content to sacrifice songwriting ability for the proverbial dickwaving competition to see who can be more "fucking br00tl." And don't get me wrong, the instrumental work exhibited here is generally more accomplished than your average death metal infused hardcore band, but With Dead Hands Rising continually neglect the fact that technical ability is just petty wankery if nobody in the band tries to put a coherent structure into place.
Bottom Line: Even back in 2003, With Dead Hands Rising released a decent album but still had trouble differentiating themselves from the pack. Expect Hell was their chance to really pull it off one way or the other, and unfortunately they've simply become just another deathcore band. A fairly accomplished deathcore band, sure, but being an accomplished deathcore band is pretty much the same thing as a bodybuilder competing in the special Olympics.
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