Open Hand – You and Me Review

Open Hand
“You and Me”
Trustkill Records

There’s a lot of band’s out there making great music … band’s that, despite being on an established label and having a tight, solid sound, still manage to slip through the cracks.

Open Hand is one of those bands.

Formed in 1999 by guitarist/vocalist Justin Isham, drummer Alex Rodriguez and bassist Michael Anastasi, the band combined elements from a variety of genres (alternative rock, hardcore and amazing melody meshed together to form a truly dynamic sound) and quickly built a solid fan base through tours with Thursday, Glassjaw and The Juliana Theory.

The band released a couple of independent EPs, and was courted by a handful of major labels (which led to a few “false-starts” for the band) before finding a home at Trustkill Records, a label known predominantly for hardcore bands. The band released “The Dream,” a combination of the out-of-print EPs and a couple of new tracks, at the beginning of 2003. By the summer, the band was touring Europe with Poison the Well.

But, as they say on VH1s “Behind the Music,” things were about to change…

Following the tour, the band’s bassist and guitarist abruptly quit, forcing Isham and Rodriguez to put the band on hiatus. During this time Isham questioned the band’s future, while “The Dream” continued to find new fans (eventually finding its way onto various critics’ “best of” lists for the year).

Rodriguez eventually left too, and Isham was forced to reinvent the band, connecting with Paxton Pyror (an old friend and versatile drummer). The two picked up bassist Michael Anastasi (from the original line-up) and guitarist Sean Woods (another one-time member) along the way and Open Hand finally got its sophomore release, “You and Me,” on shelves in the public’s hands.

“You and Me” is a change of pace for the band that, at one time, drew strong comparisons to bands in the vein of older Sunny Day Real Estate or, perhaps, later Jawbreaker material (think initial “emo” movement for lack of a better term). On this new release, Open Hand takes that original sound and mixes in some stoner rock, alternative metal and punk — think Queens of the Stone Age and CKY meets the Foo Fighters and Thursday, with the most ethereal vocals to grace speakers in some time.

The band pumps out a strong 14 tracks in just over 41 minutes, touching and melding all genres of influence along the way. The album explodes with the frenetic “Pure Concentrated Evil,” a just over a minute and a half power rock song to make any Clutch fan smile. The song abruptly ends, giving way to a more subdued “Her Song,” chock-full of slow, distorted guitar and groovy backbeats. Not only do Isham and Pyror work great together musically with rhythm and structured beats, but their vocals complement great as well.

Speaking of vocals, Isham also shares vocal duties with the opposite sex on a couple of tracks (Hayley Helmericks on “Tough Girl” and “Take No Action” and Katy J on “Waiting for Katy”).

“I’ve always wanted to have other people sing on our records — especially strong, empowered women,” Isham says on the band’s Web site about the collaborations. “It’s so boring to just hear a dude singing all the time about the kind of stuff that dudes sing about. It’s refreshing to get a female perspective. What’s really cool about it on these songs is that the girls’ voices are so much harder and more raw than mine. I sing the pretty parts. It’s awesome.”

In the end, Open Hand has crafted one fantastic hard rock album, an album that pulls influence from a variety of places and manages to defy yet embrace multiple genres. Open Hand is a band that has been overlooked long enough and would be a great addition to any music fan’s collection.

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