THE HANDSHAKE MURDERS
"Usurper"

(Goodfellow)

01. Into the Mouth of Fear/Dissector
02. Bloodline
03. Painted Contortionist
04. New Enemy
05. Error
06. Mind Bender
07. How To Kill
08. New Human
09. Apostate
10. Myopia
11. Of Cult and Atrophy

RATING: 5/10

Relatively slow, angular, sludgy hardcore from Arkansas, influenced by MESHUGGAH and dipped into the black tar phlegm of prime EYEHATEGOD for that rancid touch of Southern malevolence gone bad. Listening to "Usurper" is like a slow-motion car crash — plenty of jagged bits and shards of glass, seething vocals and chugga-chugga start-stop, complete with squeals and dissonant chords to add to the atmosphere.

And if that sounds like the description to a dozen other bands, well, welcome to THE HANDSHAKE MURDERS and their congenital flaw — they bring very little to the table that hasn't been delivered ably by those who came before them. The band seems content to throw together a hapless mishmash of repetitive drone, jittery start-stop beats, and riffs plundered from SOILENT GREEN's compost pile for the obligatory "Southern" moments. It's not delivered in a convincing manner -- it doesn't come off as being that heavy, or scary, or intense, and despite its extremity, it fades into tedious background noise quickly. Even when the band adds a little bit of hackneyed connect-the-dots lead guitar to "Myopia", or speeds things up a little in "New Enemy", it does little to spark interest. The whole record seems like a random, detached grab-bag of other people's ideas, watered down and delivered without conviction.

Sounds to me like another band signed too early. Left to their own devices, THE HANDSHAKE MURDERS might be able to grow from this derivative foundation to create something new — or at least compelling — and live up to the legacy of the bands they steal from. Right now, though, there's a lot better stuff out there, and it's hard to recommend them.

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