In the more recent influx of melodic black metal bands, very few stand out from the rest. After all, it can be a near impossibility to tell most of them apart. But following closely behind France's Alcest, there are a host of outfits looking to make a lasting impression on the genre. For Austrian two piece Harakiri For The Sky, their impact on the scene is a certainty, it would seem. Comprised of songwriter and multi instrumentalist M.S., and harsh vocalist J.J., they have begun an ascent to the top of their craft on this, their first official release. Braiding together the most raw elements of black metal with subtle touches of light and beauty, this five track debut is anything but a flash in the pan success. After listening to nearly forty minutes of beauty meets beast like this, and you will be counting the days until part two.
There is something intrinsically pleasing about the sound of rain when it collides with guitar chords, evident in the opening movement of "Lungs Filled With Water." With a constant melody in the instrumental, it is up to a gritty vocal track to provide contrast, something J.J. accomplishes immediately upon entering the fold. His agonized screams, when paired with the array of guitar, bass and percussion, are able to cut right to the core of you. While being rocked by the well balanced musical mood, his pain has no resistance. Add in the fact that the recording here is a cut above their peers, and you have a track that is as pressing as the name suggests. That storm that we heard earlier has not ended, providing the sound of slowly pattering rain drops on "02:19 AM, Psychosis." With a more powerful opening blast, you are taken directly to the meat of the song, with a single, beautifully orchestrated guitar melody dominating the mix. It is had to find any comparison for what you are hearing here, taking some of the more aggressive black metal constructed vocals, but softening their effect with perfect touches of light and dark. There are similarities to the work of Alcest worked into this track, in particular, but an evolved take on that melodic post black formula. So much can be made about the clarity of the mix here, and rightfully so. It is in the layering of sounds that you find the true beauty in the gray areas.
The last thing you would expect is exactly what you get on "From Yesterday To Ashes." Forming the foundation of the track to come, light piano chords echo through your speakers. And while the resulting guitar work may seem basic, at best, it see instrumentalist M.S. at his best. Woven into the bending, swaying melodies, are windows of opportunity. Those gaps allow for artistic license, such as the thunderous burst of double kicks or the building mountains of distorted guitars. This is also one of the first appearances of a more traditional black metal style, one that ends this track and leaks into the next, "Drown In My Nihilism." With a change in the overall tempo, this is a pace setter. The kick drums seem endless, flanked by slamming snare drums and the sizzle of one cymbal crash after another. But this is also where the bass work shines brightest, giving an added low end to the whole operation. Saving the best for last, "Dancing On Debris" is a closing track that will not only satisfy your senses, but will leave you drooling in anticipation of what happens next. With a true fusion of the agonized and the sublime, you would be hard pressed to find a track that so well represents both sides of the coin. Throughout the eight minute run time, you are taken from some of the brightest highs to the darkest lows of the album. There is a weight to the mix, one that manages the heavy hands at the drum kit with the subtle touches of guitar.
It is our craving for opposites that makes albums like this one so enjoyable. Salty and sweet, black and white, high and low; The marriage of opposites present in the five tracks here is astonishing at first. But as you move along, it all seems to make perfect sense. Harakiri For The Sky have taken beauty and pain, and merged them into a dynamic duo of metal delights, but not simply from a musical standpoint. Engrained into each song is an emotional investment that, alone, would be worth the price of admission. And unlike so many of their peers and predecessors, the entire package is wrapped in a crisp, clean piece of production work that only heightens the entire listening experience. One can only hope they continue down this path; and this album is one huge leap moving from point A, to point B.
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