(Andy Synn reviews the great new album by Austria’s Harakiri For the Sky.)
A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet. Or so they say. But when it comes to musical genres… is that really the case?
Now I’m sure some of you are already sharpening your claws ready to declaim that all genres are bullshit, and that you’re above such petty concerns… but for the rest of us who live in the real world, genre terms remain a useful way of tagging and identifying music – though I’m more than happy to admit that once we start getting bogged down in arguing about sub-sub-sub genres things start to get a little silly.
I’d contend that tagging a band with the right term remains important though, particularly when you’re introducing them to a potential new fan. Because, like it or not, using the wrong genre when talking about a band can give a new listener a false impression of what to expect, and sometimes it can be a real uphill battle to overcome this and and get them to judge it for what it is, not for what it isn’t.
Such is the case with Austrian angst-merchants Harakiri for the Sky.
You see, somewhere along the way the band got stuck with the nebulous “Post Black Metal” tag (one which certain writers seem to lazily apply to any band that utilises even a smidgen of blastbeats and/or tremolo guitar), and this descriptor seems to have followed them ever since, with bloggers and journalists continuing to regurgitate it without pausing to consider if it accurately reflects what they’re hearing or not.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a blackened element to the Harakiri for the Sky sound, but using any variant of the term “Black Metal” (“Post” or otherwise) inevitably raises certain expectations, and when it comes down to brass tacks their music has far more in common with Insomnium than it does with Implied Impaled Nazarene.
Far more accurate would be to say that the Austrian duo belong to a vague clique of bands (one which also includes such NCS favourites as Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Agrypnie, and Anomalie), based in and around central Europe, whose music occupies a distinctive niche between the darker, more depressive end of the Melodeath spectrum and the most melodic/progressive strains of the modern Black Metal scene.
Of course, that wouldn’t be as quick or as easy to write or research now, would it?
Anyway, all ranting aside (I could definitely go on and on, but this is neither the time nor the place), I’m happy to report that, however you choose to categorise or identify the music contained therein, III: Trauma is the Austrian duo’s finest work to date.
Opener “Calling the Rain”, for example, is not only the longest song the band have ever written, it’s also one of their very best, nearly twelve minutes of shining, sombre melody and electrifying riff work, topped off with a truly vital and volatile vocal performance, all delivered with a certain x-factor, a certain je ne sais quoi, that makes it an absolute joy to listen to.
It’s far from the album’s only highlight, however, as both “Funeral Dreams” and “Thanatos” follow on in quick succession, keeping the energy levels high (and the riffs high-voltage) as they ride a razor’s edge between bleakly anthemic and blisteringly cathartic, while both “This Life As A Dagger” and “The Traces We Leave” practically bleed artistic anguish and mournful melody.
In fact perhaps the album’s only real flaw is that, at a hefty hour-and-fifteen minutes in length, it slightly overstays its welcome… by, oh, say, approximately eight minutes and fifty-six seconds… with the (undeniably) energetic but (arguably) unnecessary “Bury Me” feeling a tad surplus to requirements after the stunning “Dry the River” (itself one of the best songs the band have ever written) hits what seems like a natural climax more than worthy of ending the album on a high note.
Still, if that’s the only real criticism you can raise about an album, that there’s too much of it, then I doubt that’s going to be a deal-breaker for most. And nor should it be.
Because, no matter what you choose to call it (“Post Traumatic Blackened Melodeath” anyone?), III: Trauma is one sweet, sweet album.
III: Trauma will be released by Art of Propaganda on July 22. A full stream premiered yesterday at this location. Three individual tracks can be heard below.