Artist: Harakiri For The Sky
Album Title: Arson
Label: AOP Records
Date Of Release: 16 February 2018
Another day dawns and with it, another exciting new discovery emerges for the Man of Much Metal. This time, it is the Austrian band Harakiri For The Sky that has grabbed my attention and earned my admiration. I’d heard the name of course but with a name like that, I’d summarily dismissed them as yet another trendy, mainstream metal act, the kind that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
I’ve since found out that my preconceptions and sniffy attitude over the name was way off the mark, given that ‘hara-kiri’ is the act of ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword. The things you learn in this line of work, eh?!
Regardless of all this, something made me click the email from the PR company and when I read that Harakiri For The Sky were in fact considered to be a post black metal band, I read on. I’m used to reading a fair amount of hyperbole from PR personnel but when the effusive sender made the following comment, I was sucked in and had to hear what the fuss was about: ‘not only is this one of my favourite records in years, it’s one of the best post-black metal albums I’ve heard period.’
Praise indeed, but having now listened to ‘Arson’, the fourth album from the band, I can’t deny that there is some truth in the bold statement. I wouldn’t go to quite the same lengths, but ‘Arson’ is certainly extremely good and worthy of our attention.
Formed in 2011 in Vienna, Harakiri For The Sky is essentially a duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist M.S. and vocalist J.J., although they have recruited drummer Kerim Lechner for the recording of this album. I must say that I am genuinely staggered at how just three people have managed to make such an unholy and epic racket. At times, the sheer power that accompanies the expansive walls of sound suggests otherwise, tricking the senses into thinking that this is the work of many hands, all toiling away to create something huge and monstrous.
And this latter statement is apt for more than just the deep, rich and multi-layered music itself because ‘Arson’ is not a short record. Comprised of eight songs, it nevertheless extends to the 70-minute mark. With the exception of the closing track, ‘Manifesto’, every other individual composition stretches beyond eight-minutes. Needless to say that ‘Arson’ is not an album for those with short attention spans. Don’t let that put you off though, because this is a record worthy of an investment of time and attention.
At this juncture, it is worth noting that Harakiri For The Sky are not a one-trick pony outfit. And so, although the core of their sound is rooted in post-black metal, their lengthy and undeniably epic songs do contain other influences and ideas. It all helps to keep things interesting and as multi-dimensional as possible within their chosen framework. So expect to hear a hint or two of other elements, including progressive metal, melodic death metal and even a sniff of thrash and dark/doom for good measure.
Opening track, ‘Fire, Walk With Me’ is a stonking opening salvo that leaves nothing at the door and sets the not-inconsiderable tone for the rest of the record. It begins with a piano melody under which a guitar delivers a fast-picked black metal riff, before exploding with huge intensity. The guitar of M.S. continues apace whilst the ferocious double-pedal drumming of Lechner really drives the song forward with intensity. J.J.’s vocals are harsh and screamed with real intent but underneath the apparent extreme metal trappings are some gorgeous melancholy melodies that ensure that the song remains memorable and instantly accessible. There are also just enough changes in tempo to keep things interesting and the shifts between all-out aggression and quieter, contemplative moments increase the dramatic impact of the music.
The intro to ‘The Graves We’ve Dug’ has a genuine Katatonia-esque dark metal feel, whilst the opening riff makes the most of a slower, more measured pace, ultimately giving way to greater speed as the song gets fully into its stride. Again, the sombre, emotional melodies that sit at the heart of the song are striking in both their depth and simplicity, enhanced by almost trade mark moments of quieter, melancholic introspection at certain points.
It’s a close-run thing, but I would probably declare ‘You Are The Scars’ as my favourite song on the entire album. It follows a similar pattern to the aforementioned tracks but for my tastes, the melodies are just that little bit stronger and more poignant. The mournful lead guitar lines that crop up from time to time are beautiful, whilst I really like the variety that sees all-out speed and ferocity bleed effortlessly into sumptuous ambient territory, such as found at around the seven-minute point. And there are the big, chunky guitar notes that catch my ear and have a vague melodeath quality to them. The vocals of J.J. are truly haunting and almost pleading at points too, making you really connect with the music.
If I’m being entirely honest, I do find myself gravitating to the first three or four songs over the second half. I find it hard to pinpoint exactly why this is and after much thought, I can only conclude that it is personal taste and simply that the best songs in my opinion are front-loaded on ‘Arson’. That said, there is no discernible dip in quality per se and others will no doubt disagree with this opinion.
Ultimately, I can only conclude that ‘Arson’ is a real triumph. From crushing despair to fragile hope, the music on this record conveys it all within a rich and vibrant post-black metal sonic tapestry. Harakiri for the Sky are highly recommended for anyone with a penchant for this kind of thing.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse