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Rough Hands - Moral Terror EP (Album Review)

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 Written by Guy Hirst

Photo: Harry Steel

Rough Hands’ ‘Moral Terror’ EP is an example of intelligent British hardcore that will nevertheless satisfy your unquenchable mosh pit bloodlust. It would certainly be a fitting soundtrack for isolationist misanthropy, or maybe sending a windmilling elbow towards someone’s face. But there is more at at work here than just noise and chest-beating.

This is music plagued by extreme anxiety. Throughout, the EP expresses and explores spiralling depressive states, inward facing despair, and deteriorating mental health. On Symptoms of Regression, Anodyne, and Sertraline Smile the clues are in the name - sertraline and anodyne are drugs used to counteract depression and pain.

And these emotions come through with powerful clarity in the extreme performance, not to mention lyrics, of vocalist Alex Dench.

Unlike Rough Hands’ previously released two-minute blow outs, ‘Moral Terror’ offers lengthier songs with a more nuanced intensity for him to work with. These ebbs and flows make for more memorable climaxes than before, and better songs in general.

Symptoms of Regression encompasses this perfectly, starting with a synthetic heart beat, guitars in a dreamstate, and vocals in a soft echo, it’s like a calm and slow awakening. But as the paranoia of the EP returns everything regresses back into pain. “I wanted more, I wanted more, I wanted more, of this feeling, feeling dissolves, away,” Dench screams, lamenting the recurring and inescapable death of happiness. There’s real expression here, real art.

This is by far the most original work from Rough Hands to date. Compared to their previous releases, especially their self-titled debut, ‘Moral Terror’ features more of a conceptual and musical identity. It’s no longer just straight up hardcore, and that was clearly their aim. In an interview with DIY the band said: “We plan on pushing ourselves to the limits in terms of composition and musicianship. We don’t plan on playing anything safe or trying to sound like anybody else.”

This progressive approach definitely shows, and cements ‘Moral Terror’ as their finest work to this point. It is a promising and powerful precursor for a future full length album, and comes highly recommended.

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