There’s a lot that can be discerned about a band before you even hear their music – simply based on their name. Bands with long, daunting names often tend to craft music which follows that trend: looping, twisting, churning, and in a word: taxing. On the flip side, however, there are bands which waste no time in socking the listener square in the jaw with a brute, bold name to go with brute, bold music – Oklahoma’s 2X4 is just that band. 2X4's latest release, Dark Hand, is a collection of angry, rollicking tracks which grab the listener by the ears and shake them until their brains are mush.
2X4 attacks the listener with no holds barred – kicking off with a jarring, thrashy riff and low, bellowed vocals in “Refined by Fire,” Dark Hand starts off with its strongest foot (or finger) forward. Punishing polyrhythms from the drums and absolutely hectic, metallic riffing from the guitars plunge the listener into a bath of lava-like bitterness, forcing them to roast until the firestorm which is “Dagger” reaches its end. These two opening tracks show the members of 2X4 at their most bitter and aggressive: heavy, looming instrumentation accompanies low, booming vocals that favor a growl over a high-pitched yell. The chugging, churning grooves and chunky, walloping breakdowns strike like hammers at nails of pure misanthropy, placed delicately against the listener’s flesh. In this manner, the constant low-end attack on the listener’s ears bludgeon and batter at the listener’s brain, softening it for the infectious catchiness that concludes the release.
When Dark Hand isn’t belligerently ramming the listener’s head with brute-force heaviness, it is winding its way with twisting, thrashy riffs inside the openings made by the skin-rending heaviness in the seconds before. “Addiction” does this particularly well – taking advantage of the dizzied state the listener is left in after the opening groove by transitioning into a quick, oddly-timed combination of pulverizing chugs and thrash-influenced metallic shredding. Rather than blunt, brute attacks on the listener’s sanity, “Addiction” and “Struck Down, Cast Out” use a well-sharpened and furiously forged blade to slice at the listener’s mind. This is the same blunt mass of metal which pulverized the listener in the early portions of the EP, simply refined (by fire, if you will) into something lacerating and intense which makes the listener yell with both pain and joy.
While the album’s opening tracks and closing tracks are equal levels of very diverse insanity, the middle portion of 2X4’s latest release is the only portion which draws any kind of negativity to the release – monotony. Dark Hand seems to lull through “Entombed” and “Nothing Left,” two tracks which are, for lack of a better word, unremarkable. While the EP’s title track, “Dark Hand,” is catchy and bouncy – while still including more than its fair share of beatdown-influenced heaviness – it doesn’t carry the same brute force that “Refined by Fire” packs, or the same skin-opening sharpness of “Addiction” and it’s shreddy, thrashy insanity. These middle three tracks – especially those bookending “Dark Hand,” are ones which seem forced and don’t flow particularly well with the album. That isn’t to say they’re bad by any means, they’re just skip-worthy – especially as they lead into tracks which are practically metallic, murky perfection in a hardcore nutshell.
Dark Hand is a comprehensive – if not repetitive – metalcore release which forces the listener to choose their fate: bludgeoned to death by the blunt obtrusive nature of “Refined by Fire” or sliced from ear to ear by the razor-sharp “Struck Down, Cast Out”? With just a touch more refinement, 2X4 could easily find themselves setting the national scene ablaze in a maelstrom of fury and aggression the likes of which hardcore fans across the globe are waiting for.
For Fans Of: Demoraliser, Darasuum, Monsters