It's not a good sign when all a band does is remind you of other bands. That's the musical equivalent of sleeping with someone while thinking of someone else the whole time. It can be a good, even great, experience, but it ain't the real thing. That's the case with Arkansas' The Handshake Murders, who are 80% Meshuggah and 20% Botch/Coalesce. A Life Once Lost and Norma Jean are fine bands – and we don't need more of them.
From the first notes, Meshuggah should be consulting its copyright lawyers. All its trademarks are here – dry, cutting guitars, with a ride cymbal keeping watch over grinding, odd-metered riffs. "Dissector" and "Myopia" brazenly unleash atonal, typed-out solos straight out of Fredrik Thordendal's playbook. When the band isn't aping Meshuggah, it's lifting the angular dissonance of Botch and Coalesce (see "Bloodline"). However, these bands would never devolve to a simplistic refrain of "I'll rip your throat out," as "Painted Contortionist" does. Otherwise, there's not an original note here.
That's a shame, as this material is perfectly executed. The band is tight, the songs are concise, and the sound is phenomenal. Eric Rachel of Trax East has recorded some great-sounding albums, but this is some of his best work. The instruments sound natural, and the mix is crisp and hard-hitting. It's disappointing that a band so technically talented can't find inspiration in itself. However, if you just can't wait until Meshuggah's next album, pick up this one.