Album Review

Hands Like Houses - Dissonants

Released: February 26, 2016
Lisa Sanchez

Hands Like Houses, a powerful post-hardcore five piece from Australia, have had a tough time with their third full-length album, Dissonants. When I spoke to their guitarist, Alex Pearson, in November, he spoke about pushing back the album's release date. At the time, he said the album would definitely be released in the end of January. Well, he was a little off, but Dissonants is finally here and it's by far the band's strongest release to date.

Dissonants opens with the sonic punch Hands like Houses are known for. Right off the bat, "I am," which was released a few months ago as a teaser for Dissonants, hits harder than the band's previous work. You can hear it in Trenton Woodley's vocal delivery, where the normally clean, harmonic singer breaks stride with a bellowing howl and the band tunes down at the three minute mark. "I am" marks the tone for Dissonants and announces that the album is unlike any other Hands Like Houses have ever released.

I saw Hands Like Houses perform their first headlining gig last year at Beachland Ballroom when I interviewed Pearson. It was there that I first heard the band perform "New Romantics." The songs, understandably, sound better on album. I live for the bass intro on "New Romantics." It's a little fuzzed out, but prominent and gives the guitars a run for their money. Bassist Joel Tyrell told me at that same Beachland show that he just learned to play pass about a year earlier to fulfill the role in the band. Way to make the rest of us feel like under achievers, Joel. The bass isn't magical, but it adds an extra element to what may otherwise be a less impressive track on Dissonants.

The band also laid down "Perspectives" in November, which mixes heavy guitar leads with perforating keyboard. Again, you can hear that pissed off sound, both lyrically and musically. Hands Like Houses does a great job delivering the message while couched in a light, melodic, delivery. If you're not paying attention, you might miss Woodley biting, "All my life I tried letting you inside, you thought I lost my mind, if I could just get in line. You just don't get it. It's all for nothing."

The album really picks up with "Colourblind," complete with a synth rock drum intro which drops into smooth and groovy tune. I don't know what to do with this song. What starts as a slower song eventually sets itself on fire at the two and a half minute mark. The guitars unleash a unified, thunderous symphony only to dip back down into a familiar Hands Like Houses groove, then amps back up. I'm not usually about the song fake-out, but the band does it well with "Colourblind." The song hints that the band is capable of extremes, without hammering the point home.

"Colourblind" isn't the only song with a intriguing intro. Every song on Dissonants has some sort of slow lead in or ambient intro. By the time I heard "Glasshouse" I was convinced Hands Like Houses was trying to give me whiplash with slow grooves swaying into banging guitar attacks. "Glasshouse" picks up like a tornado siren from beginning to end. "Momentary" has opening instrumentation I can't even place. Is it keyboard? synth drum? aboriginal Australian drums? You tell me. What's with that dudes? Do you not trust us to rock out from the beginning of the track? I demand answers.

Dissonants is the band's heaviest release to date. The sound change is purposeful, even intentional as Pearson mentioned, "We had an intense, stressful, frustrating year at times. This album is just us having an outlet for that emotion. It makes it a little chaotic, but it has that aggression and raw emotion we were looking for." That aggression is there. Even in a clean, pretty song like "Division Symbols" the raw emotion comes through in the lyrics, "Let me count the ways you drag me down with every word. Let me count the ways you kill me."

Despite the band's slight change of form, they still maintain their melodic roots. The final song on Dissonants, "Bloodlines,"ends with bouncing drums, exciting choruses, and an inspirational note. Woodley sings, "Just by giving up we give ourselves away. Just give me the piece to prove that I'm alive. I'll learn if I make my own mistakes." It's not the most complicated song on the album, but it has a clean sound and lacks some of that aggression previous tracks on Dissonants deliver. Which offers a sense of catharsis that I hope the band was going for. Otherwise I'm a crazy person. 

Dissonants was a pretty solid album. It didn't innovate the way I wanted it to and at some points the guitars became stale and tiresome, but it kept my attention with the quick-time groove changes and engaging vocals. Hands Like Houses should be proud of Dissonants. Even though it's not a barn-burner album, it's different enough to breathe a little life into the scene.‚Äč