Bay Area thrash can have only one true origin, and that would be San Francisco, home for Hand of Fire who formed in 2015. Those who remember Vengeance will instantly recognize Jim Settle on vocals while the rest of the band has an equally recognizable resume’, coming from bands such as Tantrum of the Muse, Bomb and Scary, and Something Left Unsaid. All the experience of the band members has allowed them to craft a powerfully aggressive sound that caught the attention of the metal community and those over at Rottweiler Records. For Nuclear Sunrise, the band brought on noted thrash producer Juan Urteaga (Exodus, Testament, Machine Head) to handle production.
Much to my enjoyment, Hand of Fire skipped the intro track approach for Nuclear Sunrise, fitting for a thrash album, and the band, launches immediately into “Bleeding Out” with a guitar solo intro reminiscent of Megadeth. As one who has avoided the hype around the band during the seemingly never-ending series of delays for the release of this album, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the first track. Machine gun fire drums with lots of variation in patterns, solid bass lines to carry the song along and some great riffs work together to support the vocals, not that they needed any help. Some vocalists have that voice made for their genre and Jim Settle’s voice was made for this. As is the case with all good albums, at this point, one song in, I knew this was going to be a great album. Musicianship and songwriting were excellent, vocals great, production flawless, giving the instruments and vocals plenty of room to work cohesively, all the signs were there for a masterpiece.
“Burn It Down” starts out a bit different with a fast riff before a short stop/start when the vocals come in and the band settles into a fast groove with a catchy chorus and some slower spoken sections attacking hypocrisy in the church. Fast and aggressive with some melodic hooks are scattered throughout this song and the rest of the album for that matter.
“Let the Killings Begin” might be the first introduction to Hand of Fire for many listeners as the song was the band’s first lyric video and it debuted almost a year ago at this point. For the album version the band added a slower intro section and in general tightened up the sound overall. Given the end times subject matter of the track, the new intro section works really well to establish that feeling of impending doom. “Nuclear Sunrise” continues the theme and features some of the best combination of guitar riffs and drumming that I’ve heard in a while, something that is also a key part in “The Prophecy”. The coordinated drums and riffs at times almost seem like a breakdown but they’re much too fast for that and are delivered with a real sense of power unlike most band’s breakdowns that seem like they were added because the band was out of other ideas.
Fast riffs characterize “Reap What You Will Sow”, reminding me of those in “Holy Wars” (Megadeth) but the band manages to vary tempo and pacing in the song quite a bit to lose any further easy comparisons and that is one aspect of their sound that I appreciate – just when I think a song is going into familiar territory, it veers off into something uniquely Hand of Fire. “Some Will Say” has a s similar fast riff but definitely throws off that sound of metal pounding on metal and the song also feature some great clean backing vocals and some sections that make good use of silence from the band, showcasing Settle’s vocals.
Fittingly, the band seems to take out all the stops for the final track on the album “Walk”. Guitar solo intros, pounding drums, some brief guitar harmony and then it all comes together into another fast, aggressive track, this time supported by shouted gang vocals. I will say that much like FreaKings’ Toxic End, I was a bit disappointed in how short the album is at only 32 minutes, but then again, when you play songs at close to double normal speed, it’s easy to overlook this minor complaint.
So far, 2017 has been a great year for some new thrash and that is something that is long overdue in my opinion. FreaKings’ Toxic End, Adorned Graves Out from the Depth of the Grave and now Hand of Fire with Nuclear Sunrise have brought great joy to my ears this year. What was really good to hear were the parts that reminded me of the bands that blazed the trail for thrash and then hearing Hand of Fire add in their vision, so, if you like old Metallica, Testament, Exodus or even some of the fast hardcore punk, you owe it to yourself to check out Nuclear Sunrise.
Written by John Jackson
1. Let the Killings Begin .
2. Some Will Say
4. Reap What you Sow.
5. Nuclear Sunrise
6. Bleeding Out
7. Burn It Down
8. Walk It Off
Jim Settle – Vocals
Tiago Souza – Guitar
Bill Davies – Drums
Tom Eaton – Bass
Record Label: Rottweiler Records, Nov. 2017
Lyric video for ‘Some Will Say’
Video for ‘The Prophecy’