REVIEW: I, the Reverend – Hands of Mercy [EP/2014]


Artist: I, the Reverend

Album: Hands of Mercy – EP


Anyone who tells you that you can make it through life completely on your own is wrong—there is simply no other way to put it. To be a human is to have problems and face insurmountable obstacles that demand the assistance of another, whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally. Whether it’s a hand to hold or a heartfelt sentiment ringing truly in your ears. Everyone among us, at one point, will need the help of a friend, family member or perfect stranger as a personal savior. In a sense, deathcore is no different. Sinking under the weight of out-of-left-field, same-sounding sludgy down-tempo deathcore, the genre’s figurative lungs are filling with lethal levels of monotony, and its hands are desperately flailing just above the surface, frantically gesturing for help. Virginian villains I, the Reverend is just the savior heavy music needs in its most dire hour—as Hands of Mercy is the EP that will pull deathcore ashore and pump fresh life into its haggard veins.

Instrumentally, Hands of Mercy hits the listener with a grab-bag of influences. Parts of the EP feel more akin to moments on an atmospheric sludge album, relying on Eugene Plastino’s splashy, space-filling percussion to pierce the listener’s cranium only to resonate inside their head and bounce around the walls of their skull. “Manipulate” does this brilliantly, relying on Plastino’s pervasive, atmospheric percussion to fill entire galaxies of empty space, creating a dissonant mecca in which the listener can find solace. When Plastino’s penchant for dark, decaying percussion takes the charge, guitarist Michael Slaughter follows suit, figuratively murdering the listener, drowning them in layer after layer of dense, drudging fretwork that crawls along the snail-like percussion like an infant with shattered limbs. Together, Plastino and Slaughter create sublime moments of blissful, down-tempo perfection that are equal parts beratingly aggressive and broodingly atmospheric, paying perfect homage to I, the Reverend’s doom-metal influences. Tracks like the instrumental “Manipulate,” as well as the album’s introduction, “Introduction to Perdition” paint perfect pictures of bleak, dessicated soundscapes that one might expect on a Crowbar or Orion album.

That isn’t to say that Hands of Mercy is lacking in bitter, straightforward hatred. True enough, Plastino and Slaughter create cavernous, ethereal moments of dissonant perfection frequently throughout the EP—but that isn’t all they’re gifted at. “Disintegrate,” for example, showcases a groove-heavy opening riff and raunchy, energetic percussion that reigns supreme over I, the Reverend’s penchant for the pessimistic and melodic alike. Low and slow riffs hammer the listener’s carapace like leaded sledge hammers, splintering bones and battering flesh—while the percussion sets the perfect candor to which Slaughter lets loose with his furiously fretted onslaught. Just as they did when they were composing enormous, overarching moments of sinister, doom-and-gloom despair, Slaughter and Plastino are prodigally gifted at creating surreal moments of heaviness that have become the trademark of true-to-form down-tempo deathcore.

The respective isles of sludge and sheer brutality that I, the Reverend found on Hands of Mercy are bridged by diverse songwriting, driving energy and a dynamic vocal presence—courtesy of Jacob Ashton. Ashton provides a driving force for when Hands of Mercy becomes entrapped in directionless dissonance, forcing tracks like “Introduction to Perdition” into a bottleneck and providing a scaffold upon which Plastino and Slaughter can build. With a cavalcade of cruel and unusual screams and bellows, Ashton keeps Hands of Mercy rolling along—even during the most brutalizing, antagonizing moments in the EP’s title track, or the album’s conclusion, “Savior.” In fact, the only way in which Ashton—and I, the Reverend in general—leave the listener wanting is that there simply isn’t enough of the EP to go around. This three-piece work in such perfect harmony—such pure, punishing dissonant dynamism—that five short tracks simply doesn’t feel adequate enough. Then again, when the only problem with a release is that there isn’t enough of it, it really isn’t much of a problem.

By the Hands of Mercy, offered graciously by up-and-coming giants, I, the Reverend, deathcore is saved—for now. As their debut EP show that I, the Reverend are more than apt enough at their low-and-slow brand of brutality to keep heavy music’s heart beating for another year—and hopefully, by the time the listener gets there, they will be blessed with more from these Virginian visionaries.



For Fans Of: Traitors, Desolated, Crowbar, xKingx, God of Nothing

By: Connor Welsh