The Hidden Hand

Mother Teacher Destroyer

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Of the two band projects embarked upon by vocalist and guitarist Scott "Wino" Weinrich following the demise of Spirit Caravan in May 2002, his union with ex-Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin's Place of Skulls certainly had the greater star power to begin with; but, in terms of actual longevity, smart money was always on the brand-new the Hidden Hand's survival -- for obvious geographical (Griffin living in Tennessee, Wino in Virginia) and ego-related reasons. That indeed turned out to be the case and, following a debut album that, save for the unexpectedly political bent of its lyrics, pretty much picked up right where Spirit Caravan had left off, the Hidden Hand began to establish a fresher, more distinct sonic imprint with their second effort, 2004's Mother Teacher Destroyer. Not that there's been a radical stylistic shift here from Wino's career-long doom-based songwriting tendencies, either. New songs like "Desensitized," "Travesty as Usual," and "Sons of Kings" are still dominated by down-tuned, lumbering riffs, and the dreamy "Black Ribbon" features acoustic guitar progressions and soft, nebulous vocals descended straight from Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan." No, Mother Teacher Destroyer's creative novelty derives primarily from two facts: first, there's an otherworldly, almost Zen-like calm pervading the above and additional Wino masterpieces like "Half Mast" (with its understated groove and poetically expressed social commentary) and "Magdalene" (an evocatively dark and obscure love song) that allows their more fragile ingredients to shine forth, and secondly, there's the diversifying songwriting contributions of bassist Bruce Falkinburg, who handles lead vocals on three of the album's nine sung tracks, including all-important opener "The Crossing" and the slightly psychedelic "Currents." Finally, there's two instrumentals -- more curious than actually good -- in "Draco Vibration" (like an awkward-moving phalanx of arm-dragging orangutans) and "The Deprogramming of Tom Delay" (making a wordless political statement by way of pulsing, sci-fi sound effects) to complete the picture. In short, fans of Wino's more take-charge approach of projects and albums past may finish Mother Teacher Destroyer wondering where all the virility and muscle went; but for those willing to accept the Hidden Hand as an altogether subtler and more contemplative proposition, this album certainly qualifies as among the most unique in the great man's discography.

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