Hands That Pluck: not quite the sterling send-off it could have been

Caïna, Hands That Pluck, Profound Lore Records, 2xCD PFL-082 (2011)

This double CD set is Caïna’s swansong release and what a way to go with nine originals and nine reworked songs. Andrew Curtis-Bignell hired some big names including Imperial from Krieg, Rennie Resmini and Chris Ross to help out on vocals and lyrics, and the result can be quite impressive if not always clear.

The first CD in the set is the “Hands that Pluck” album proper, the second CD being a bonus EP set. Hard to tell the difference between the two CDs though where style is concerned: on both discs, the music is wildly all over the place. Even within the same song, the style of music can veer and dip suddenly into cosmic space ambience from a tide of black metal fury or something almost punky. The first two tracks tend to pass in a blur but with undercurrents of sonic tunefulness and steady rhythm. More complex moods, atmospheres and musical structures come with the title track and the track following after: post-rock and a martial rhythm dominate the fourth track that also features a lonely mood. “Callus and Cicatrix” introduces a more decadent Gothic flavour with weirdly theatrical voices amid the roars and brittle black metal. The album continues in this way with a mixture of spacey ambience, flourishes of black metal anger and long passages of contemplative melodic rock. For a last album, you’d think Caina had finally found a fairly definite and distinctive style to settle into but no, ACB is as restless as ever musically as well as personally and existentially.

The second CD features 2011-dated reworkings of songs released on previous albums; the new versions won’t be to everyone’s taste as some are definitely lite-metal pieces. As on the “Hands that Pluck” release proper, there is a bewildering variety of styles running from jangly dark melodic blues rock boasting plenty of atmospheric space and intensity to steely black metal roar and trilling guitar tone, to spacey acid synth effects. “Validity” is a deeply affecting instrumental with pretty melodies and a jazzy percussion rhythm overlaid with wispy synth and jagged BM riffs. “The Last Song” is a surprisingly laidback countrified piece with jangly guitar, a lazy loping rhythm and melodies that drip, drip, drip like beautiful raindrops.

“To Funk the Night Up by its Shit” is one of two reworkings (the other being “To Pluck the Night Up by its Skin”) of the track “Wormword over Albion” that appeared on “Mourner”: this is a disco instrumental with a rubbery marching pace, pleasant enough in itself but sounding like filler material. “Permaneo Carmen (2011 remaster)” is hardly different from the original on “Mourner”, just a bit bulked up perhaps. The second reworking of “Wormwood over Albion” features new lyrics delivered in a highly abrasive and noisy style that doesn’t quite suit the melody (a bit stand-offish) but is otherwise an agreeable track to finish the album with, with a spoken word field recording that incites unease and slashing riffs cutting through the talk.

As farewell albums go, I wish “Hands that Pluck” had more focus and fire than flightiness. You always want your favourite bands to go out with a bang and “Hands that Pluck” doesn’t quite reach that pyrotechnic level. “Callus and Cicatrix” is the highlight of the disc with a delirious blend of tough BM and deranged voices.

Try to get the double set rather than the album and EP separately if you want to complete your Caïna collection.

Contact: Profound Lore Records