Heavy Hands
"Smoke Signals"

(Language of Stone 2008)Heavy Hands - Smoke Signals

Following in the footsteps of bands like Wolfmother that completely recreate an old sound, Heavy Hands gives psychedelic stoner rock a shave and a bath, but not much else. The band is "heavy" by 1978 standards, and vocals are mixed low to reflect the sheer power and intensity that the music suggests as it rolls and romps through a hearty nine tracks of head-banging, beard-wearing, dope-smoking fun.

Some tracks echo the raw exploratory blues jamming of Cream, while others offer a tighter, more focused feel of a Blue Öyster Cult/Neil Young collaboration. Near the end of the record are the true gems - the hypnotic, rambling beasts that almost scream for you to grab the nearest illegal substance and abuse it to no end. The album is called "Smoke Signals," after all. The vocals are at times wispy and far-off sounding, and a bit hard to connect with, except when they wander towards Jim Morrison-like baritone yowls. The rhythm section holds the songs together with aggressive, visceral playing and a sonic palette straight out of '74. The music stays tight and interesting throughout, never falling into that lumbering boredom that typifies so much stoner rock. It's always exciting to listen to a drummer who consistently uses his whole kit (think Moon or Bonham). Pair that with smart, energetic bass-playing and you've got a stand-out rhythm section.

While Heavy Hands are good at what they do, the singing is not soulful enough to make them a a great band. They need a Robert Plant or a Jim Morrison to take them to the next level. Their sound is iconic, but they need a compelling icon to complete the picture. Only then would I let them get away with completely ripping their sound off of their favorite classic rock bands.


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