Individually within the metal world, they’ve laid claims in previous projects and careers. But together, the men of Hand of Fire are just starting out, signing to Rottweiler Records. Evolved from the infamous musician “side project” in 2015, they stand today, releasing their first studio album, Nuclear Sunrise. It’s a ripper, but it’s is about more than making noise; it’s content heavy, tackling social constructs that have poisoned the well of sanctity in the Christian culture today. It’s intentionally controversial and creates a new take on the well-traveled Apocalyptic end as we know it.
If you listen to it from a distance, you’ll hear all of the standard elements that make thrash metal the dramatic subgenre that it is. It’s full of chugs, shreds and Tiago James Souza’s guitar heavy attitude in each song. There’s plenty of space carved out for Bill Davies as he crushes the drums and creates the companion work to complement Souza. Vocalist Jim Settle represents the late ’80s throwback feel and well-practiced thrash branded performance he and the band own completely.
“Let the Killing Begin”
The opening song is thrust upon you with repeated chants of “Rise up and kill!” which are alarming and set a dark tone for the album. Settle’s vocals maintain a consistent, rich scream that doesn’t wane or fade. Although this song doesn’t stand out sonically, it is lyrically intense and descriptive. It acts as a warning call.
“Some Will Say”
Without hesitation, this one starts out with more intensity. Making eternal decisions in the wake of this newly dawned death pushes the story along. There’s a sick solo at the halfway point, which is more icing than anything. The vocals are sharpest here among all the tracks. The more melodic chorus is a nice deviance from the generally unrestrained and heavy-hitting that surrounds it. Lyrically, it gives the unusual perspective of both sides of the eternal decisions that one can make, implicating beliefs rooted in faith as a hypocritical fallacy.
Yet another warning of coming events based on prophecy. The words are straight from Revelation in many sections of the versing, speaking of impending war to come. Hand of Fire is truly artistic in way the guitar and chorus vocals are synced. It’s hard not to notice that this seems to be an expansion on the first track in terms of theme. It’s got some very impressive shredding and is the most jacked in volume, sound, and energy. It would be fair to say this is probably the best track on the album.
“Reap What You Sow”
At one point, Settle calls out America for turning it’s back on God, a good example of the titular theme of track. Overall, this has a very Metallica vocal vibe in the chorus, and, even if it were for that reason alone, has a fantastic sound.
This is the cheesiest song on the album, especially considering it’s the namesake. It’s got good bones, but jumps the shark when it uses HoF’s own name repeatedly in the lyrics. The song’s premise is laying blame of nuclear war at the hand of America, including the many tragedies of war from different viewpoints. Souza makes good use of the whammy bar and gets into some pretty intensive guitar play. Probably the most accurate depiction of thrash metal timbre on the album.
This is a solid sonic performance. It’s got a sick solo in intro, and I couldn’t help but love the cadence used to keep the intensity high while the rest of the elements around it fall into darkness. Easily, it displays the most inorganic vocal style, which sets a formidable tone. Lyrically and spiritually, it’s a tough pill to swallow, especially if you listen out of order and thus out of context. However, it’s easy to realize that all of the above is intentional and meant to create an atmosphere of contemplation around the consequence of selling your soul.
“Burn It Down”
The screams on this one especially are very genre-specific and dramatic; it’s awesome. Subject-wise, it references burning down what the church, as a collective community, has become and calls out the hypocrisy that plagues it. It’s probably the most controversial track.
“Walk it Off”
Although it wasn’t the most stand out track on Nuclear Sunrise, the finale still had some density and substance. The group chants in the chorus were a curveball, adding a little bit of a punk infusion. It wraps the abbreviated album with a message of survival at any cost. It’s about tearing down the walls that religion and evil influences have both built and instead following Christ as the one true example. It’s a good way to close the album, providing a full-circle conclusion and some encouragement on the way out.