The Handshake Murders Usurper

Following in the time-honoured tradition of combining the distinct styles of two separate bands in an attempt to bypass the need for originality, the Handshake Murders fare better than most simply because of the utter severity of their influences, in this case Coalesce and Meshuggah. How could such a combination go wrong? The truth is it doesn’t, it simply relies a bit too heavily on lifting directly from both groups. Vocalist Jayson Holmes’s throaty bellow is a dead ringer for the late Coalesce’s Sean Ingram’s, while the occasional solo or stuttering polyrhythm veers uncomfortably close to Meshuggah’s overall approach. That being said, the Handshake Murders deliver punishing mosh fairly regularly, so those looking for a kick to the throat without much in the way of innovation will enjoy Usurper. In all fairness, the group are considerably heavier and more consistently entertaining than peers A Life Once Lost, who are peddling a similar fusion with a hell of a lot less intensity. A meaty production job courtesy of the generally unreliable Eric Rachel (Dead to Fall, Zao) strengthens the album without covering up the group’s inadequacies in the songwriting department. Usurper is an uncharacteristically derivative release from Goodfellow, although still characteristically aggressive and for the most part, enjoyable. (Goodfellow)