Usually, Metal from Finland is incarcerated inside a cocoon of cold Death and/or melancholy. For the last seven years, however, Helsinki trio Slave Hands has rebelled against the norm to peddle a particularly horrific brand of Doom-flavoured Sludge, and No More Feelings (Dry Cough Records/Gate Of Deliria/Minor Obscure/Sewer Prison), the band’s fourth album in that time, continues down that solitary, diseased path.
Even the wailing feedback of intro ‘Misery is the Secret to Happiness’, complete with its traumatic film quotes, is harrowing. If further proof of the malevolence within is needed, the bass-heavy ‘Malignant Filth Vessel’ oozes from the speakers, initially with more pace than expected and with an element of groovy resonance. Mikko‘s harsh, arid throat soon brings the terror, though his lead guitar chords at the coda do bring temporary relief. That lumbering, colossal rhythm section really comes to the fore with the often Funeral-paced ‘To Sink Deep’, each hammer blow from the sticks of drummer Late coated in the rumbling notes of bassist Veilu, while Mikko’s rhythm strings fizz and squeal under the weight of oppression. The finale does return to that quickened tempo, and it’s of benefit to the album as a whole that this versatility is frequently apparent.
In fact, it’s a sound not unlike the murderous horror of Primitive Man: ‘Filth’ perfectly embodying the template of slow, unflinching Low-end crush graced by a terrifying scour and characteristic time switches. Here, however, Slave Hands show that extra invention with enlivening yet sinister leadwork. Another sampled soliloquy introduces the obliterating ‘Trapped Inside And Left Outside’, those cascading rhythms remarkably deft given the sheer pulverising might of the strings while Mikko’s Blackened roar introduces another fearsome quickening, with the mammoth drums losing none of their power. The penultimate ‘Concrete Defeat’ has the swerving riffs of Punk protesting against the weight of sarsen stones: monolithic structures epitomised by each inhuman swing of the drumsticks.
The album closes with the monumental ‘Forgotten Trail’, initially an ultra-slow hypnosis which destroys with each thunderous chord, each cavern-creating plunk of the bass, every gargantuan crash of the tubs. Amazingly there’s tenderness here, the slightest tremor of cymbals introducing the second verse after more tempo changes, but this is mostly dwarfed by the howling pummel of the denouement: its squeals echoing the despair of the weight of ages. If you love your Doom to be flatteningly heavy and dripping with infected hatred, then you’ll find No More Feelings utterly huge: dark, uncompromising yet delicately seasoned, Slave Hands has come of age in exciting, brutal fashion.
8 / 10