Album Review: Broken Hands – Turbulence

By on Thursday, 1st October 2015 at 12:00 pm

Broken Hands Turbulence coverI can’t say I’ve ever seen a band quite like Canterbury, Kent band Broken Hands live. On a Wednesday afternoon at SXSW 2014, I went upstairs to the Rooftop on Sixth to see the then-Radio 1 BBC Introducing-anointed group play and was surprised to see large swathes of silver foil, similar in kind and volume to the stuff you find on satellites and spaceships (I should know, my dad worked for NASA), billowing in a wind I’d yet to have experienced in Austin. The overall effect was one I haven’t forgotten.

Space rock has been a genre since ’70s Pink Floyd, but you’ve never seen Dave Gilmour playing in front of a stage setup like this. I had to wonder if this was just gimmickry for the sake of the live show, especially playing in front of their first American audiences, and perhaps for a single or two. However, just looking at the title of the group’s debut album for SO Recordings, ‘Turbulence’, shows without a doubt that not only space but travel and the motion of flight have influenced their songwriting. For good measure, there are mechanical whirrs and sci-fi sound effects peppered throughout this rock record to add to the out of this world ambience.

My guess is if you’re reading this and you know anything about Broken Hands, it’s probably their uncompromising wall of sound that drew you to them, a sound akin to early Muse, long before they lost the plot. Actually, while we’re on the subject of Matt Bellamy’s band, I can draw comparisons to the Teignmouth tenor to the strong pipes of lead vocalist Dale Norton, whose presence is really important to stand up against the heavy instrumentation. LP and live highlight ‘Meteor’ is a hard-rocking, hard-driving number with killer guitar riffs. Risking your life by hanging off a piece of metal hurtling through space has never sounded so good.

‘747’ has whiffs of Muse as well, the number ominously and slowly burning towards its booming conclusion starting at 3 and a half minutes in. Title track ‘Turbulence’ has incredible build-ups, Norton asking aloud in an emphatic shout, “can you feel me?” Yes, actually, we can. And you feel good. Another album highlight, ‘Four’, is a tight little number not even clocking in at 2 and a half minutes, Thomas David Ford’s bass riff dirty like the darkest hell and deeply satisfying to a hard rock fan. Only slightly slower, ‘Should I’ and its droning guitars lull you into a false sense of calm until the bass – and Ford – shows everyone who’s boss. Like Ben Thatcher’s playing in Royal Blood? I don’t just think, I know you will think this is some good stuff. (It also helps that the album was produced by Tom Dalgety, who was also at the helm of Royal Blood’s blistering debut LP of last year.) Single ‘Who Sent You’, unveiled recently ahead of its release on the 2nd of October, 1 week prior to the album, is mesmerising lyrically while laying into you musically.

Rather than fill the album with one punishing track after another (which I suppose wouldn’t have been bad, it just may have come out sounding too samey), Broken Hands have done well to mix things up, if only to show off their versatility and their potential future musical direction. Title-wise, you’d think ‘Impact’ would be the logical musical brother to ‘Meteor’, but you couldn’t be more wrong. In its magnificence, ‘Impact’ surprises, particularly Norton’s sweeping voice in the role of balladeer. Less effective is ‘Collide’, a mellow prog tune that stays pretty much in one place.

All taken together, ‘Turbulence’ is an assertive debut album from a rock band worth keeping your eye on. Watch this space.


The debut album from Canterbury’s Broken Hands, ‘Turbulence’, will be released on Friday the 9th of October on SO Recordings. The band will be on tour in late October into early November. All past coverage of Broken Hands on TGTF can be found this way.

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