Album Review: Streetlight Manifesto's The Hands That Thieve

After six long years of waiting for truly original content, fans of Streetlight Manifesto and those alike finally rejoiced. The Hands That Thieve at last arrived.

*Taken from Wikimedia commons

That last piece original content produced by Streetlight Manifesto was released in 2007, with the album Somewhere In The Between. During this six year period Streetlight released the 99 Songs of Revolution Vol. 1 in 2010. While the cover album received mostly positive reviews, many fans sat impatiently in their seats waiting for truly original content from the seven-piece super group. Then, in the spring of 2013 their latest work was finally public, The Hands That Thieve.

Streetlight, as considered by many, is a ska band. Many fans tread this line lightly however. For many, including the front man of Streetlight Manifesto himself, Tomas Kalnoky, never considered his band to be ska. Kalnoky expressed his disdain for musical labels in his AP Radio Show interview.

“We’re not really influenced by ska music, or really fans of ska music.” Kalnoky said, “We try to do a mixture of genres, one of the main ingredients and byproducts just so happens to be ska.”

As intended, Kalnoky managed to support and protect his thesis in The Hands That Thieve. There are many musical influences/genres are present within the album, primarily ranging in the metal to punk, and of course, to the ska part of a musical spectrum. However, periodically throughout the album, elements of folk, hard rock, and even abstract concepts of latinesque/world music managed to present themselves throughout the record. But to truly appreciate the content of the album, you must delve into the instrumentals, lyrics, and the overall meaning behind the album.

Streetlight maintained its traditional musical formula akin to their prior works, which is an orchestration of loud brass and woodwind sections with drums and guitars keeping the rhythm and backing up the brass. Despite their formulaic approach, tons of musical/instrumental variability were present throughout almost every track in The Hands That Thieve. The most unique sounding song in the album, “If Only For Memories,” had more of a folky twist, as the lead brass took a Latin-esque playing style when recording the song. Compare this to the album’s single (The Three Of Us), or the album’s slowest song (Toe To Toe). There are considerable distances between each song musically that makes each track in The Hands That Thieve a distinguishable one.

Kalnoky, the singer and songwriter for Streetlight, is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, which explains the amount time taken between his original album releases. But the wait was well worth it. With the mixture of his raspy, energetic, screams and chants to soft his spoken folk-like bridges in the middle of his songs, Kalnoky gracefully expresses his feelings and emotions throughout the vocals and lyrics of the album. As with many of Streetlight’s previous albums, there is an underlying concept to the songs and album as a whole. The one of the verses on the album’s title track beautifully expresses the concept.

Cause the scars I get they will just collect, Insuring that I won’t forget, Reminders of the battles that I’ve lost and that I’ve won.

The Hands That Thieve was a perfect way to kick-off Streetlight’s “End of the Beginning Tour” and more appropriately, a poetic way to end their relationship with their long-time record label Victory Records. While The Hands That Thieve may not hit cult popularity like Everything Goes Numb did, Streetlight’s dabbling into various genres and influences makes The Hands That Thieve a truly original sounding album.

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