Not long after the surprising news that three-piece post-hardcore outfit Hands would be reuniting for Facedown Fest 2017 came the announcement that they would also be dropping a new, two-track EP. Hands, fronted by Shane Ochsner, last released new material back in 2011, partly due to Ochsner's more recent side project, Everything in Slow Motion. This particular EP, New Heaven/New Earth, feels more in line with EISM than Hands, but it does competently blend a few of their distinctive nuances.
The first track, "New Heaven," opens with a drowned-out guitar riff, consistent with much of Hands' earlier work (and truthfully, many other Facedown artists). This piece contains a nice blend of both clean and screamed vocals, as well as poetic lyrics: "Heaven is open wide / slow down enough to see a rising sun / as one we are broken / rebuild, rejoice; love is all that binds / in failure we learn that mercy will throw us to the light." The closing of the song, as well as the instrumental breakdown leading up to it, possesses an unusual amount of energy, showcasing one of Hands' best tracks to date. The only issues with "New Heaven" are found in a few segments where the audio balance seems to be a bit off, as well as some parts where the material could be more original.
"New Earth," on the other hand, is as close to a perfect song as I could ask for. Its haunting, mellowed-out ambiance fits perfectly with the foreboding-yet-hopeful (and sparse) lyrics. "New Earth" examines the destruction of this present earth, preceding the coming new earth seen in Revelation 21. Ochsner opens the track singing in a low voice, almost whispered, and utters the line, "I don't know anything about the fire, but it's coming anyway / and it's going to burn, burn, burn." After a short, piercing interlude, he continues, "I see the smoke on the horizon. But there's peace in this place. Though it's going to burn, burn, burn. I feel the weight of my sorrows. I feel it lifted away, as they burn, burn, burn."
These cutting lyrics serve to acknowledge that both the beauty and pain we see and experience will pass away, and a second, longer interlude eventually gives way to the closing line, "I gave everything I had to give, and I'd do it all again / I'm going to burn, burn, burn." It's hard to discern whether this line is referring to the "Christianese" concept of burning (with the passion of the Gospel, Holy Spirit, etc.) or speaking to the truth that our bodies will be remade in a glorified state. It's quite possible that both interpretations are intended, and with the slightly offset timing of this song, it becomes perfectly paced to allow the listener an adequate amount of reflection/meditation on what little is actually sung.
Released barely one month into 2017 and it's already a guarantee that "New Earth" will find a home with this reviewer's year end picks. Even if you're not a fan of post-hardcore genre, the latter half of this EP is well-worth the download. While the future of Hands remains uncertain, this gem is certainly a wonderful, albeit brief, addition to their discography.
- Review date: 2/23/17, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com