Heavy Hands snuck up and bit me on the ass. They came out of nowhere; I had no idea of who in the hell they were and had heard none of their music. I was intrigued merely by their name and unique album artwork, so I dug a little deeper and found one of 2008's strongest psychedelic releases flying under the radar. Signed to Drag City's Language of Stone Records, Heavy Hands are New York City, neo-psychedelic three piece that look backwards toward early 70's progressive rock and 1960's garage and psychedelia for their sound and inspiration.
In some circles and on several reviews they are cited as being partially a stoner rock/stoner metal band, however I have to go ahead and disagree. Don't get me wrong, a great deal of this record is made of of distorted riffs and heavy drones, yet doesn't line up in my mind at all with what is considered stoner metal. After listening to the record several times in its entirety, I can see where the attribute of "stoner" anything would come to mind. This album makes you feel a little fuzzy in the head and hazy in the vision department just by listening. Who am I kidding, you can almost hear the bongs ripping in the background. The best way I can describe the sound of this record is The Stooges meets Black Sabbath. There is definitely something about Heavy Hands that reminds me a bit of Dead Meadow, however things are amped up a great deal, more emphasis is placed on the groove element of the rhythm section, and the vocals pushed higher in the mix. The music itself turns out to be very conducive to the personal exploration of one's headspace. In a nutshell, this means that Smoke Signals is an extremely hypnotic album that you can easily get lost in. Highlights include "From Stonehenge", a heavily percussive trance-like track and "Can't See Through", that could just have easily been taken from the outtakes of Funhouse.
Good album. Not life-altering, but a great debut and way to get things going for Heavy Hands nonetheless.-Andrew Bryant