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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

The Hidden Hand

Mother-Teacher-Destroyer

Review by Mike Korn

Mr. Scott Weinrich, known as "Wino" to friends and fans, has been a constant but low key presence on the American heavy music scene for close to three decades now. He is the very essence of the man who lets his music do the talking for him, and that talking has included records from The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and Saint Vitus, along with numerous side projects and guest stints in other bands. Now Wino may have found his most effective means of communication with The Hidden Hand. Teaming up with bassist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, the Hand plays the kind of doomy, psychedelic music Wino has been known for in the past, but augmented with a lot more experimentation and even aggression in some spots.

"Mother-Teacher-Destroyer" is that rare heavy rock record where each track clearly stands on its own and yet fits smoothly with its brethren to form a cohesive whole. The record ranges from the slow, majestic heaviness of "The Crossing" to the ominous Sabbath-like "Desensitized" to the space rock "Draco Vibration" to the quiet but dangerous "Black Ribbon". Through it all, Wino alters his vocal and guitar tone to fit the mood of the song while Falkinburg and Hennessy deliver a flawless bottom end, reminding this reviewer of the Jack Bruce/Ginger Baker tandem of Cream.

Wino is now beginning to receive much overdue recognition from the music business he has devoted himself to for so long, but judging by "Mother-Teacher-Destroyer", the best may lie ahead for this old war-horse and his band, the Hidden Hand.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Crossing
No build-up at all here...the track starts right away with a slow paced but very regal sounding riff. The vocals are multi-tracked, creating a cool effect, and they also kick in immediately. The cut picks up steam with an urgent increase of tempo, and then Wino cuts loose with some outstanding guitar soloing. After a rocking mid-section, the song returns to the original mode. This is a really fantastic heavy rock song! "Fascinated by the Crossing/The planets are aligned/Slow turn, ten thousand years..."
Half Mast
This starts off a lot like something that could have been on The Obsessed's album "The Church Within". A rather laid back feel with a combination of warm electric and acoustic guitars with
Wino's Ozzy-like vocals set the tone for the early stages of the tune. Then things become a bit more forceful as the pace picks up, and the riff has a more aggressive feel to it. I like the constant repetition of the phrase "We will overcome, you will overcome, I will overcome", but the song fades out during a Wino solo, ending it on an awkward note.
Desensitized
This is the heaviest song yet. The guitar is tuned way lower, and Bruce Falkinburg's bass is noticeably fatter. This has got a really dark early Sabbath feel to it. There's one section in particular that sounds a lot like a "Fairies Wear Boots" /"Sweet Leaf" combo. It builds to a truly powerful climax.
Draco Vibration
The guitar effects pedals get a work out on this spacey instrumental jam. The drum and bass combine for a kind of tribal rhythm as weird guitar noises give things a real psychedelic feel. This might be even better with some chemical indulgence.
Black Ribbon
Although it is the quietest and most acoustically oriented track here, this has a really ominous, brooding quality. I've never heard Wino sound like he does here, with low-key, electronically augmented vocals. They are really cool, in my opinion. Parts of the song are heavy, especially on the chorus. The song kind reminds me of Zeppelin's "No Quarter" mixed with classic Cathedral. It really grew on me.
Magdalene
Another more rocking cut, this again could have been on any of The Obsessed's old albums. It's based on a really basic pounding riff. The vocals are again multi-tracked and almost folkish in spots. In fact, if Crosby, Stills & Nash were metalheads, they might come up with something like this!
Currents
I can't say I cared for this as much as the other tracks. The musical theme wasn't bad, though it is pretty familiar, but I didn't like the singsong vocals, which are way too obviously trying to capture a 60's psychedelic vibe. It's not a terrible song but definitely not the cream of the crop here.
Travesty As Usual
This is appropriately dark and brooding, as the lyrics expose the lies and deceit of the powers that be. It's another cut where comparisons to early Sabbath are in order. It's definitely one of the heaviest songs.
Coffin Lilly
This cut has a stalking feel on the verses but develops an excellent catchy chorus. You can really see how the Hidden Hand draws from heavy rock traditions from the 60's right up to the present here. This is stoner/doom metal that will get your head nodding.
Sons of Kings
We go back to the epic feeling of "The Crossing" here, only this cut is even better. It sounds like the lyrics deal with the Trojan War and the song has the massive feel of ancient mythology. The riffs start out slow and majestic, with more multi-tracked vocals, but then the song gets fast and frantic...you can feel the warriors clashing in battle! The cut is really cinematic and tells a story with music as well as words. It's my favorite song on the CD.
The Deprogramming of Tom Delay
In case you don't know, Tom Delay is the right-wing fanatic Senator from Texas who makes even George Dubya look like a liberal. The cut itself is an instrumental that begins with the clash of a gong before going into a long stretch of feedback and spacey noises. Dave Hennessy's drums finally provide a beat for the noise, and then a classic doom metal riff enters the picture. It ends the album on a strange, almost cosmic note.
 
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