Handful of Hate - Gruesome Splendour - 2006 - Cruz Del Sur
1. Livid 2. Theory of Perfection 3. Used To Discipline 4. Tied, Whipped...Educated 5. Grotesque in Pleasure, Rotten in Vice 6. Reproach and Blame 7. Spawn of Decadence 8. Whiplaw 9. Ejaculation Dementiae
Handful of Hate play a pleasantly non-denominational form of black metal on ‘Gruesome Splendour’, the band’s fourth album to date. Aside from that stray ‘u’ in ‘Splendour’, the only tell-tale sign of Handful’s European origin is their tempo, which only rarely drops into the patently loping USBM range. For those keeping score, Italy is their home country. Handful recently signed onto burgeoning local label Cruz Del Sur, whose distribution range and visibility are notably greater than all the band’s previous employers. And luckily, Handful’s maturation process coincided with their rise (not always a given), as ‘Gruesome Splendour’ is Handful’s best album thus far.
The album leads with the strong ‘Livid’, which confidently combines black metal tremolo picking and belching vocals with thrash metal’s aggressive riffing and death metal’s resounding punch. In this situation, the classic comparison is to Marduk et al, but Handful integrate more tempo and textural diversity. This comes at the cost of some of their venom, but the trade-off is a wise one as it helps ‘Gruesome Splendour’ keep its entertaining edge. A more accurate band to compare Handful to might be The Furor of Australia: apocalyptic in nature, youthful in execution, and somehow fun all throughout.
Regardless, ‘Gruesome Splendour’ places Handful in difficult territory. While the album is strong enough to raise them up from a middle echelon of mediocrity to a higher, more noteworthy position, it also subjects them to a more stringent set of expectations and standards. As potent as the entire album may be, once the outro ‘Ejaculation Dementiae’ expires it is difficult to recall with clarity more than a couple of its passages. It is not that each song is in itself forgettable; rather, it is more that they lack endurance and don’t quite stick to the underbelly of our minds like superlative black metal does.
We must recall, though, that ‘Gruesome Splendour’s final impression is slightly disappointing only because its overall pedigree is so strong. This Italian crew has weathered adversity in the past and continued to produce focused and driven music that vigorously sidesteps predictability and stagnation. To resist the insufferable puns waiting to be made on their name, suffice it to say in conclusion that Handful of Hate need to challenge themselves only a bit more next time around to earn their place at the forefront of black metal’s horde.
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