You’re my favorite deputy! There’s a snake in my boots! Harakiri for the Sky! Oh sorry, I was just playing with a Toy Story sound board that seems to be malfunctioning. Let’s get to the review.
Hailing from Vienna, Harakiri for the Sky (HFTS) do an excellent job of blending “black” metal with a type of atmospheric post-metal on their new album III: Trauma. I put black in quotes here because this is one of those cases where I would agree that “black” has too broad a spectrum, and this album probably shouldn’t have that label. There are hints of it, but it is far more of a progressive sound that hardly shares a resemblance with traditional black metal. That being said, this duo know the sound they are going for, and do an excellent job of achieving it.
HFTS have taken a few great strides since their last release, Aokigahara, released in 2014. Previously, the vocals were borderline screamo at their worst and a nice painful anguish at their best, but vocalist J.J. seems to have reigned in the blackened texture he was looking for all along. It doesn’t vary much through III, but its consistency doesn’t really ever get boring. It sounds much more mature and his cadence matches better with the flow of the songs.
Additionally, on Aokigahara, they seemed to overuse a very generic rapid double bass rhythm to create heaviness, where on III they thankfully decided that there are other, more interesting routes to go. Speeds are varied, there are a few more well-developed atmospheric sections, and melancholy helps add emotion the the relentless blasting. The production is also a major improvement; it is far less muddy and works well with their progressive and melodic tendencies. The drums were pretty muddled previously and stand out much better this time around.
One thing that is consistently good across both albums is the melodic guitar work and M.S.’s ability to create catchy grooves. However, not every riff is perfect, and a few almost feel like they are tricking you into believing they are catchier than they are by using repetition. Unfortunately, the other song they have to preview falls victim to this pitfall (the recurring parts at 3:05 and 6:45 specifically), but there are great guitar moments throughout the album that make up for the slight missteps.
One minor issue I have with the album is it’s overall length. In most cases, I don’t have an issue with long albums, but only if every song feels like an A-side. III has 8 songs that are all over 8 minutes, and sometimes the repetition starts to wear on you a bit, especially if the riff just isn’t that great. There’s enough material here to make a pretty good album, but too much space between those moments.
I am starting to like genre-mashups like this more and more, since the sliding between the two keeps every song from getting stale and provides a lot of room for creativity. The album might not blow you away, but it carves itself a nice niche in the genre and HFTS perform it well. FFO: Mesarthim w/o space, or Agalloch with less folk.
I’d say this one lies on the positive and enjoyable side of a