I’ve always been of the opinion that hardcore is best suited to EPs. Doesn’t it make infinitely more sense for a genre originally built on pacey rhythms and a certain brand of short-livedness to be confined to bursts of four or five tracks? The elongated form tends to exacerbate hardcore’s shortcomings, which mostly revolve around tiresome repetition and a deadening lack of ingenuity that sometimes just translates as a laziness on the band’s part. Accordingly, I deem Rough Hands worthy of attention, not just because their new EP ’Nothing’s Changed’ fits my dictatorial and entirely a priori standards, but also thanks to the genuine intelligence, versatility, and impressive musicianship on display. ’Nothing’s Changed’’ many qualities elevate it above the average HxC fan fix.
The main draw lies in Rough Hands’ reticence to keep things one-paced, an otherwise damning disease amongst hardcore bands. Especially in cases when you’re intending to go anywhere above the 3-minute mark, as is the case on opening track ’Mind In Pieces’, then you better be providing me with a little more than just aggression and speed. On said-track, the quintet gradually—and ever so slightly—hit the brakes. This progressive shift from the stylistic traditions of the genre to something on the verge between hardcore and sludge is mostly conveyed through drumwork, the rest of the band really delivering par for the course, but is also nevertheless a compelling introduction.
Following what might almost be described as minimal post-rock interlude, ’-’, comes the eponymous track, certainly the EP’s finest moment (and perhaps the band’s strongest yet). Set alight with brutally muscular riffs over an atmospheric wall of sound, ’Nothing’s Changed’ feeds from the gloomy depths to find some truly dirty chuggage and high doses of a doom-tinted mix of despair and rage. The track is undoubtedly the most potent summation of Rough Hands’ concise yet persistently engaging output. ’Selfish Misery’ might revert back to more traditional territory, as does closer ’Conscientia’ (which looks to flirt with trash before shifting right back to their wonderfully languid sludge-inflected riffs), but while they might have blended right into the wallpaper on a full hardcore album, Rough Hands’ versatile approach makes them welcome additions to a wonderfully plural palette.
’Nothing’s Changed’ by Rough Hands is out now on Holy Roar.
Words by James Berclaz-Lewis (@swissbearclaw)