Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri: Not The Weapon But The Hand
  • Production
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Lyrics
  • Anticipated improvement while on drugs

“Your beautiful face has aged, lost it’s power.
You must have known it wouldn’t last forever.
I see it in your daughter, but she’s a softer soul.
I guess it’s not the weapon that does the damage,
but in whose hands it rests.
The world’s a safer place without your beautiful face.”

I’m giving all of you die-hard, pretentious, eclectic-loving progressive music fans fair warning, so listen up. If you require surprise and suspense in the dynamic range of your music, stop reading. Need a litany of chord changes and melodies? Just get back to your day and pretend this article doesn’t exist. If, in order to truly enjoy music, you require more than one time signature per track, just look to the right, see how many stars I gave this album, politely nod, and read about how unbelievably stubborn Matt and Tyson are. But, if you’re willing to give any talented, deep and well-constructed musical release a chance… I’ve got an album for you.

Many of you know Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri already, so I’ll give them a brief introduction for the uninitiated. Hogarth, or h as he inexplicably likes to be called, is the man who replaced Fish as vocalist for progressive rock legends Marillion. Barbieri has played keyboards for Porcupine Tree since 1993, nearly the entire duration of the band’s existence, and will always affectionately be known be me as “that guy in Porcupine Tree who kinda looks like John Lennon.” I don’t know how it came about, but the two decided to collaborate on a record, Not The Weapon But The Hand, which was finished in late 2011 and released on February 27, 2012 through KScope.

Now, on to the album. I’ve sincerely hated most track-by-track breakdown reviews I’ve read, and normally I wouldn’t announce my intentions NOT to give you one, but a track-by-track breakdown of this album would be BRÜTAL! That’s right, brutal enough to require an umlaut. I’ll spare you that visual massacre. This is just not a track based album, which is not to say that individual track cannot be enjoyed by themselves; they can. It just wouldn’t do justice to the depth of feeling and meaning that is evident on the record as a whole. I can only guess as to what the concept is, but even if some of the tracks don’t connect to it (although several definitely do), there’s a clear mood being set. And it hits you hard. The lyrics at the top of this post are spoken in a soft, melancholy voice (by whom I couldn’t even say) behind a backdrop of Barbieri’s signature atmospheric textures, and make up all 1:25 of the final and title track. I had to replay it three times, and had goosebumps each time.

On a superficial level, the first thing I thought of during my first listen was Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34, which is interesting because the first phase of that song was written before Barbieri joined the group (although he contributed on a reworked version of the song later on). Not The Weapon But The Hand is a trip. It’s listed as “Crossover Prog” according to Progarchives.com, but I would feel just as comfortable putting it in the Psychedelic category. The entire composition is practically built upon a wall of rich keyboard soundscapes and piano sections, amidst a combination of electronic and superbly-played acoustic percussion, some double-bass, and just a hint of Hogarth’s New Wave background. The lyrics are usually spoken, sometimes sung, and always delivered in a moody, whispered voice that would drive every judge on American Idol to perform Seppuku on the spot.

I was almost ready to declare this album, with an even and mellow flow throughout, to be perfect for some drugged-out high school party, but those little bastards wouldn’t appreciate the sheer genius and workmanship behind it. This is the perfect album for those of you who have graduated from a petulant adolescent to a serviceable adult that likes listening to well-composed progressive music, but who still enjoys sparking up with his or her buddies from time to time.

In conclusion, this is truly a great progressive piece. There’s plenty of artistry here, and the repetition that occurs every now and then will capture your mind, if you allow it to. Look out for some surprising moments: half-way through Naked, you get the impression that you’re in a creepy, run-down carnival in the dead of night.