Bart M. : Since the creation of metal in all of its wonderful aspects, bands have been pushing the boundaries and styles within certain genres, trying to develop the music further. Sometimes these developments fail hugely, but occasionally new and interesting things are the result. To me personally metalcore has never held much attraction, but this genre too keeps developing and Hampered is an example of how this is done the right way. And it got me interested! This band from the south of France, active since 2013, brings us their debut album 'Asylum'.
The only things that really draw me to the music of Alice Cooper are his songs about the dead and those about institutions for the mentally deranged. Hampered dedicates an entire album to that last subject (hence the title), and on our journey through this album we get quite a nasty insight into the traumatized mind of our protagonist, a man haunted by an unhappy childhood. Abused, beaten, lost his sister, aggressive father and drunken mother. He ends up in an institution and gets to deal with all the misery you would expect there, especially when you have watched movies like 'Shutter Island' and 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest', both of which the band names as inspiration for this record. I will not tell you how the story ends, you will have to find that out on your own.
The material is quite nihilistic and heavy and the music that suits this best is metalcore. Like I mentioned though, Hampered gives this an original twist. Not just by the spoken (in French) passages between the songs, that give the overall experience a little more atmosphere, but also because occasionally their music borders on heavy metal and it rips away like a fine-tuned chainsaw. Musically everything sounds good. The vocals vary: in general they are strong and convincing (especially the screaming), and part of the clean vocals even sound like those of Matt Barlow (ex-Iced Earth), but the other part of them sound a little weak here and there and I would definitely consider that a point on which the band can improve. I am glad Hampered does not attempt any despondent, complacent ballads, but just sticks to what they are good at: pounding and thrashing in a nice, melodious way.