Review By: Topher Parks
Release Date: 06/16/2015
Rating: [usr 9.5]
Less than two years after the release of their Solid State Records debut, Idaho natives The Ongoing Concept are back with their sophomore full-length, Handmade. This time around, the quartet crafted many of the instruments heard on the album themselves. The result is a near-flawless execution of an already-genius idea.
Handmade kicks off with all kinds of intriguing sounds on the instrumental title track. The album opener lasts just under a minute long, and, like the opener from the band’s 2013 full-length debut, acts as an intro, not only for the album itself, but also for its natural successor. This time around, the finger-snapping standout, “Amends,” is on the other side of the intro. Featuring an infectious guitar riff and horns embedded throughout the song, on “Amends,” the band serves up their signature sound, while adding new elements to spice things up. “Feel” is abrasive music at its best. From the head-bobbing groove to the pummeling choruses, the only true letdown of “Feel” is its brevity, as the song fades out way too soon. Thankfully, the quartet brings this intensity right back on “Trophy,” a fantastically heavy song with an enormous riff, grand enough to topple a skyscraper. The onslaught of sheer brutality continues with “Prisoner,” a decidedly more Southern jam reminiscent of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster or even The Tug Fork River Band. It’s a phenomenal finish to the four-song wall of ferocity that is the first half of the record.
From there, foot stomps and hand claps are the name of the game on “Melody.” This upbeat sing-along is the closest thing the listener gets to a breather on Handmade, and even here things heat up near the end, thanks to a few screams layered over the top of the singing. With an insanely catchy chorus, lots of crazed riffing, and some fun electronic sampling, “Unwanted” is a nod to the band’s 2011 EP, Arrows Before Bullets, in more ways than one. The overwhelmingly southern flair returns on “Soul,” yet another highlight from the record. This one oscillates between a shuffle beat and a straight-forward aggression, all the while with the guitars in overdrive. “Survivor” is one of the weaker songs on the album, but the song itself is far from weak, courtesy of a monstrous bassline. “Falling” fitfully closes Handmade with an interpolation of Saloon’s closer, “Goodbye, So Long My Love.” Though it works well as a reprise of sorts, there’s also a freshness to “Falling;” it’s much more than just a simple rehashing of its 2013 counterpart, and consequently a great way to end the album.
Handmade is the perfect successor to Saloon, as it expands the band’s sonic horizons while staying true to form. Not only is it the next logical step in the band’s progression, but it also stands alone as one of the strongest releases of the entire year, and will likely continue to do so even at the year’s end. It will be interesting to see if The Ongoing Concept can top this with their third full-length a couple of years from now. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Listen To “Soul” here.