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A Solid Debut - 80%

corviderrant, August 16th, 2004

I don't customarily dig this whole "stoner metal" thing because, frankly, I don't dig 9-minute dirges about burning incense and smoking pot. This is the stereotype; The Hidden Hand are the difference. I checked this out because of the famous Wino being involved, and after hearing his incredible vocals on the Probot track "The Emerald Law", I knew I had to check this out, what with the musical pedigree (St. Vitus, Hill of Skulls) the man has. And it was not time wasted, either.

Mostly, this album stays in a slow to middle tempo and lays down a relaxed yet powerful groove about a mile wide. Wino's guitar tone is massive, woolly mammoth fuzz we're talking here, and his vocals are no disappointment either--passionate and full of feeling. His soloing is emotional and convincing as he declaims his lyrics about environmental issues and politics versus religion and how neither are necessarily your friend, and his rhythm section are no slouches either. Especially on the album's ending track, the moody, dynamic instrumental "Prayer for the Night"--wow. It starts off at a whisper and sloowly builds into a doomy-yet-mellow wall of distorted bass groove, thundering drums, and gurgling wah-wah guitar leads that will have you in awe at the atmosphere they evoke of a nighttime setting--I get the image of a desert landscape myself, as I detect subtle American Plains Indian overtones in this tune. The rest of the album that leads up to this mind-altering track is just as strong and hits more than misses.

"Tranquility Base" and "The Last Tree" are two of my other fave tunes here, connecting with solid riffing and again, excellent leads from Wino--they especially pack a punch here. Their theme song, "The Hidden Hand", also has some great, Sabbath-sounding riffs in the chorus. But this is far from simple Black Sabbath worship, like lesser stoner bands do. This is WINO, facryin'outloud, how can you not expect the man to excel at leaving the wannabes behind? He does just that and shows them where it's at on this album with riffs that are catchy and concise, as well as songs that get in, make their point, and get out without boring you to tears by droning on and on and on. "Screw The Naysayers" makes its point with dignity; "The Hidden Hand is here to stay!" You can do worse than this to be introduced to the world of stoner metal and not be bored out of your mind.