The EP is the definitive introductory format for a reason. Australia’s Fate’s Hand waste little time making use of it here. And while its four tracks vary more in pace than sound, the self-titled EP makes a good case for the band’s place in the increasingly crowded traditional heavy metal camp.
As the band’s label notes, the members of Fate’s Hand also call, or at least at one time called, Stargazer, Impetuous Ritual, and Mongrel’s Cross home. No one would ever know this listening to the band’s mostly no-frills approach to good old-fashioned heavy metal. Yet if it weren’t made clear enough in the music itself, the pedigree certainly explains why Fate’s Hand sounds as confident and polished as it does.
Despite the band’s rather straight-forward approach, there’s an element of playfulness in the riffs that makes each song feel like an album all its own. The band interspersing clean and deceivingly catchy leads between the general bounciness of opener “Fate’s Hand” is an early example. There’s a slower, dirge-like passage in “Fate’s Hand” that not only plays with pace but gives the vocals time to shine at a higher register. While not the central piece of any one song, these moments give the EP some personality and character. Hearing more of them on a debut full-length would not be unwelcome.
“Fascination” kicks things off in a similarly bouncy and jaunty fashion, the slight tweak being a noticeably slower, more repetitive, and hypnotic rhythm. The vocals feature more prominently in this second track. Despite a brief but arguably indulgent moment of spoken word a little over two minutes in, “Fascination” benefits from this heightened focus. The drawn out, accentuated singing blends well with the hypnotic rhythm of the instrumentals to create a uniquely meditative tone.
Closer “When the Wolf Comes” may not be the strongest song on the EP—that title goes to “What’s Been Will Be Again”—but it does draw from its renewed energy. The song successfully distills the hypnotic rhythm, drawn-out vocals, and varied pace from earlier tracks into an appropriately brief four and a half minutes. There’s some twin guitar moments, or at least moments that sound like there’s some twin guitar in there, that are particularly impressive.
As an introductory EP, Fate’s Hand checks all the boxes. Killer riffs. Inventive leads. Varied pace. Hypnotic vocals. But a few tweaks of the formula might help propel Fate’s Hand to the upper tier of bands paying homage to 1980s heavy and speed metal. Namely, the production buries the vocals. Given how prominently the vocals are featured in “Fascination,” that’s no minor issue. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix. The harder fix is in the songwriting. The varied pace makes for a fun listen, but because the songs often lead with a similar rhythm there’s a general sense of sameness. Playing more with tone might help.
Regardless, these are relatively small quibbles. Chances are, if you like Night Demon, Pounder, and, to a lesser extent, Haunt, you’ll like Fate’s Hand, too. The impressive leads and at-times warbling vocals are the selling point here. And one has to hope that they carry both over to a full length soon, while building on the sound established in “What’s Been Will Be Again.”