As an EMT, I occasionally have to administer a medication or assist a patient with taking their own prescribed meds. These days, making the correct medical decision is a huge deal in many regards— Doom_et_Al knows this better than anyone — and the legality of said decisions has become an enormous focus for providers. For that reason, we’re usually taught some version of the five “rights” of medicine administration. Before giving a med, one must first confirm that it’s the right drug, for the right patient, by the right route, in the right dose, and at the right time. If any of these “rights” are missing, administration of the drug becomes illegal. Becoming a music reviewer has revealed to me that a band must, in the same way, check off certain non-negotiable criteria if their record is going to stand a chance of succeeding. To elaborate on this point, let’s check out God Hand, the debut album from American/Canadian deathcore act Brand of Sacrifice.
If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that my taste in music is highly suspect, so it should come as no surprise by now that a deathcore album has a decent chance to impress me. In fact, when I heard “Divinity,” the first single from God Hand, I initially thought that I might have stumbled upon a gem. After a moment of mourning (I desperately need to lower my yearly average)1, a smile crossed my face. “Divinity” opens with an ungodly belch from vocalist Kyle Anderson and some powerful drumming over machine gun groove riffing before moving on to incorporate some brutal death, slam, and electronic elements. This combo gave me a hint of the greatness that was Shadow of Intent‘s Reclaimer — the last deathcore album I truly loved — and I allowed my hopes to soar. “Divinity” is followed by second single “Fortress” which is followed by “Charlotte,” and the trio form the strongest portion of the album and make for a fun and br00tal ten minutes.
If only the other 16 minutes followed suit. Creatively titled opener “Begin” sends up a giant red flag by providing just under two minutes of chugs, pig squeals, roars, and double bass drum. It’s like the band wanted to take all of the sounds that would appear throughout the rest of the album and put them together into a short demo without those sounds actually forming a song. This sound-over-songs issue will become the theme of the back-half of the album unfortunately. “The Branded” is the first proper track to fall prey to this flaw, joining “Beast of Darkness” and the closing title track is almost totally forgettable. Of the ten tracks, three (including the aforementioned “Begin”) are interludes, and they account for 5 minutes of a 26 minute album, another red flag2. “Hill of Swords” is the stuff of movie soundtracks and I’m pretty sure “After Image3” came directly from that video game where you do mining and crafting. Not only do these two tracks not mesh with the style of the album, but they also fall within one track of the other, completely derailing the momentum of the record — something that cannot happen on an album this short.
Production-wise, I couldn’t be happier. The sound on God Hand is massive. It’s so good, in fact, that it distracted me from the lack of songwriting on my first listen. The drums can alter your heart rhythm, guitars are chunky like spoiled milk, some (not all) of the electronics work well, and Anderson’s vocals absolutely destroy. His is the standout performance for sure. His squeals and roars are simply ungodly, and he carries many of the songs when the music itself falls short. Embedded track “Divinity” is certainly the best to be found here, but don’t let it fool you into believing that the rest of the album will match its quality.
While Brand of Sacrifice have the right sound, the right production, the right runtime, and certainly the right vocalist, they forgot to bring the right songs for nearly two-thirds of the album. There are very good moments, but the lack of one “right” ultimately renders this dose of deathcore ineffective. I’ve heard enough potential to be excited to hear what they do next, but God Hand lacks the strength to grip me.