I loved Sounds Like Violence’s The Pistol EP. I was also very sure that it was lightning caught in a bottle, and that their long-delayed full-length debut, With Blood on My Hands, would be lackluster at best. Maybe that makes me a pessimist, but I’ve seen it happen far too many times to count.
Consider the trademarks of the EP: simple, forlorn lost-love lyrics, references to death, blood and the like, childlike rhymes and the kind of catchiness that many bands find hard to repeat. On top of that, it was not despite these things that The Pistol EP was so great. It was because of them. Sounds Like Violence managed to take things that other bands would be hard-pressed to bring above the level of cliché and make them not only acceptable, but endearing, intelligent, necessary and intensely emotional.
Well, they did it again. With Blood on My Hands should be on year-end lists for 2007. Their label, Deep Elm Records, has them compared to My Chemical Romance, Underoath and fellow Swedes, Refused. Save for the Refused, which is only somewhat apt, these are faulty comparisons. Though not exactly sonically similar, Sounds Like Violence would best fit on a stage with any of the stalwarts of 1990s emo: Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, Roadside Monument, Texas Is the Reason, or the favorite of reviewers when describing this band, Drive Like Jehu.
With songs that run the gamut from chaotic and broken-hearted (“Were You Ever in Love with Me?”) to driving and powerful (opener “Nothing,” “The Greatest”) to the obvious singles (“Directions” and “Glad I’m Losing You,” the latter of which magnificently cops the melody from “Stepping Stone” for its chorus), With Blood on My Hands has everything you could want from a band like this. Highs and lows, cynicism and naivete, optimism and pessimism, grandiosity and simplicity, predictability and unpredictability -- this album hits every note.
Its weakness is that the songs tend to keep the same dynamic through the whole album, and, as such, the stronger songs have the effect of making the weaker ones forgettable. But is that really a terrible thing? In the end, this is not a perfect album, but it is, in the most simple term, awesome...and damn near close.
On With Blood on My Hands, Sounds Like Violence have proven themselves capable of catching lightning in a bottle whenever they please. The fact that it is a good album is a great sign: We have a new band very much likely to create an unequivocable masterpiece someday. Sounds Like Violence has managed to make raw, visceral emotion catchier and more tangible than ever before. You want this album.