Harakiri For The Sky - IIITraumaAs this site’s self-appointed Angry Metal Bottom Feeder, I take it upon myself to devour all the metalcore, post-black metal, and trendy bullshit that I suspect my more evolved brethren often don’t want to touch. I guess part of me still has fond memories of older albums in these genres and continues to hold out hope that new releases will be just as good. While this means filtering through a lot of mediocrity, occasionally I’ll stumble upon a gem that makes it all worth it. Unfortunately last year’s Seagrave debut was not one of those gems. However, it did lead me to discover Austrian post-black duo Harakiri for the Sky, in which Seagrave’s J.J. serves as the vocalist and lyricist alongside multi-instrumentalist Matthias Sollak (or ‘M.S.’ here). Unlike the shoegazey drivel that occasionally hinders the genre, Harakiri’s sophomore record Aokigahara was keenly focused on delivering sharp, blissful melodies over music that never got too wishy-washy or teetered into melodrama. The result was one of 2014’s most exciting post-black records, and primed my anticipation for new full length III: Trauma.

And fortunately, Trauma is a more than worthy successor to Aokigahara. Stylistically, not much has changed: through these 8 tracks, Harakiri continues to deliver a pristine, riffy, dynamic, and hyper-melodic collision of post-rock and black metal that places genuine musical substance and quality songwriting over sappy atmospherics and pretentious concepts. Imagine Alcest but more extreme and less sentimental, Austere but more melodic and less bleak, or Deafheaven but more consistent and less Pitchfork fellatio. First single (and current Song o’ the Year contender) “Funeral Dreams” nails it early, beginning with an explosion of fluttery Insomnium-esque melodies over rapid double-bass drumming, moving into a chunky mid-paced riff that’s later underlaid by subtle piano, and finally introducing a gorgeous lead that literally made me blurt out “Oh my fucking God” the first two times I heard it.

While J.J. continues to deliver surprisingly poetic, depressing lyrics via his intelligible, mid-register rasp (and hits some great lines like ‘Fuck this life!’ in opener “Calling the Rain”), it’s Sollak’s superb guitar-work and songwriting that really makes Trauma a win. Aforementioned “Calling” begins with glassy clean picking before layering redemptive, ‘all-is-forgiven’ harmonies over a reflective tempo, moving into Daylight Dies riffing and peppier rhythms in the second half. From the lazy floating leads of late highlight “Viaticum,” the tapped open notes of closer “Bury Me,” the triumphant final return of the flagship riff in “Dry the River,” to the moonlit Swallow the Sun-esque melodies in “The Traces We Leave,” each song here is distinct, emotional, and typically contains at least one memorable highlight. Sollak knows just the right time to mellow out with sunbeam post-rock interludes, step up the tempo with rainstorm blasts and lively beats, revisit and re-invent prior ideas, or incorporate odd twists like the rich clean singing of guest vocalist Davide Straccione (Zippo) in “Thanatos.”

Harakiri For The Sky - 2016

Though no track comes in under 8 minutes, the excellent arrangements prevent them from feeling overlong. This does, however, lead to a 75 minute runtime, which – while not a flaw in itself – means at least one potty break is to be expected, and reinforces that more variety wouldn’t have been unwelcome. In the future, I’d love to see Harakiri incorporate more adventurous guitar-work or expand on ideas like the piano embellishments of aforementioned “Traces” and the clean vocals in “Thanatos.” And though the production’s excellent mix provides a great soundstage for the smooth faraway leads, crystal sharp riffs, and thumpy rocking drums, it’s also so squeaky clean I half expected the band photo to feature a bald man in a white T-shirt giving me the thumbs up.

Still, the clear production fits the music’s pristine feel, and it’s one of the few complaints I have in an otherwise great record. With enough good ideas to fill the next three Alcest albums, Trauma is a tightly performed, mesmerizing tapestry of fantastic leads, wretched vocals, and drumming that moves deftly between crackling transitions and smashing buildups. This is the type of record that shows just how far the genre has come since Diadem of 12 Stars just ten years ago, and serves as 2016’s most compelling argument for why post-black metal is so much more than a throwaway gaggle of Burzum-worshipping hippies. In short, this is New Bermuda done fucking right.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Art of Propaganda
Website: facebook.com/HarakiriForTheSky
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2016

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  • “…and less Pitchfork fellatio.”

    High praise indeed.

    • PanzerFistDominatrix

      That line had me smiling as well – though I haven’t got a clue what it means.

      • Alex Benedict

        well pitchfork gave New Bermuda a 9/10. That might be why

  • Reese Burns

    I saw the cover and Instantly thought of The Mantle, so there’s that.

    • Anders Liadal

      You read my mind!

  • Wow! There are so many puns intended here that I am looking forward the comments to rainfall here. Don’t get me wrong, I love that!
    However, the review makes it an essential listen as I interpret it. Even if I’m one of the defenders of New Bermuda and WITTR especially.

    • Reese Burns

      Wolves in the Throne Room are amazing, full support.

  • What’s that creeper behind the soon-to-be unicorn looking at?

    • Blueberry Balls

      Jo momma.

    • [not a Dr]

      He saw the unicorning coming. That’s a special talent you develop when you hang around unicorn-bait.

    • PanzerFistDominatrix

      He’s gazing at his shoes while driveling…

  • brutal_sushi

    The embedded track grabbed me right from the start. Im really looking forward to grabbing this.

  • Syn

    Davide is really good. I saw him live once with Shores of Null. They were all great. I’m looking forward to their second offering.

    • Grymm

      Seconded.

      That Shores of Null debut gets plenty of play in my house, and Davide is one of my favorite singers. He’s got some power in his lungs.

      • Syn

        Yeah, he’s really good. And he’s so tiny xD

        I still prefer Mike Semesky, though, but that’s sort of another topic.

    • Luke_22

      Yep love the debut, if they can develop their sound further and impove the production the new album should be something special.

  • pfk505

    Nobody ever talks about their first album but for me its their best. It balances the genres it combines in a fantastic way, and is a bit more aggressive. On the whole I feel like there are very few bands who can pull this sort of thing off and Harakiri are right at the top of that list.

    • [not a Dr]

      Tom only mentions first albums.

  • Yesss, didn’t know this. Glad you did a review, this is now a need-to-buy-need-it-now for me, based on the embedded track.

  • This music is quite good, but wow, what a video. I hesitate to call this a standard “lyric video” as quite a bit of effort was put into it, but man, the way they edited that horrific video footage together….wow thats depressing.

  • Blueberry Balls

    Wow, right aropund 2:35 both the song and the video get nuts.

    • Reese Burns

      It’s one of the most effective videos I’ve seen in a while. The real-life firing squad footage, that was intense and hard to watch.

  • Monsterth Goatom
  • Adjudant

    Some beautiful guitar work on this album

  • William Hebblewhite

    Love this type of Post-Black metal. Embedded track was great. Can’t wait for the new album. For now will go and listen to Aokigahara.

  • Akira Watts

    Jesus. That video. Dig the song, and I clearly need to get this album, but that video was rough. Effective as fuck. Just, you know, rough.

    (The “won’t neither” line, about 3.5 minutes in, is killing me though.)

    • Ein Sophistry

      I wonder if there’s a market for heavy metal copyediting. There needs to be.

      • Akira Watts

        I’d kill babies for that job.

        • Ein Sophistry

          Depending on the band, that might be something to mention in the cover letter.

          • [not a Dr]

            Are you talking about Numenorean?

  • Alex Timmer

    This is all well and good, but I had Punk Rock_Cody by Deafheaven on when I stumbled upon this review, and to pause that and turn on the embedded video is like having a cup of warm piss thrown in your face in terms of production and sound.

    That being said, after you switch from a full, deep and intense production to this, more flat and less intense (maybe it’s the YouTube rendering), it sounds pretty good. But I can’t shake the feeling how this is way more poppy (and imho Pitchfork fellatio for it) then any given Deafheaven song.

    But hey, I’m probably not kvlt enough and a goddamn hipster for saying this. I even smile in my profile pic, blasphemous.

    • Wipe that smile off yer face, son! We frown here at AMG.

      • [not a Dr]

        yeah.

    • [not a Dr]

      I recently learned that blasphemy was out of style too: you’re compounding your infractions!

  • madhare

    Wow! The embedded track was… really good. Like you said, didn’t feel long at all despite the length. And worked really well with the video. Such a great way to do a “lyrics video”! The black and white clips of war and atrocities is such an overused cliche, but at least they were well edited.

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    I hear the lush arrangements, I hear the solid composition and I hear more than competent musicianship, but this whole genre tends to leave me hollow – it just feels like emo for grown-ups.

    Next!

  • Listening to this through a second time, I hear a bit of ‘Rapture’ in the guitars. I am surprised AMG hasn’t made a reference to them in a while.

  • Luke_22

    Nice write-up Mark, haven’t heard these guys before but this sounds like really good stuff.

  • PanzerFistDominatrix

    “… places genuine musical substance and quality songwriting over sappy atmospherics and pretentious concepts.” They surely found a pretentious name though…

    Anybody wanna join my new outfit, “Seppuku in the Bathypelagic Zone”?

  • Ernesto Aimar

    “…this is New Bermuda done fucking right”

    Now that’s one hell of a punchline. Not only did it make me wanna listen to the album, it prepared me for an amazing extreme melodic piece of work.

  • Hammersmith

    I have had this basically on repeat since it came out. While I don’t always love clean vocals, I have to say, the cleans in Thanatos really elevate that song. Wouldn’t have minded seeing them incorporated on other parts of the album.

  • Joining in on a discussion concerning an 11 days old review could be considered joining in too late, indeed. It would also be the perfect time to jump on the wagon if being a fucked up coward. I assure those who happens to gaze upon this comment in 2118 or in some other distant future that I enter this forum solely because I’m late, drunk and weary from vacationing with family, relatives and friends (rater than listening to music in blissful solitude). Ergo, I’m fucking late!

    This album is quite alright, but serious forks (as a stand-up fork in The Far Side once uttered), if compared to the album that the artwork reminds you of, (Yes, Agalloch – The Mantle (God, you are slow)), this album ain’t even close to being an artwork within the same frames. I (and you) can distinguish every single off the nine great songs on The Mantle. After close to ten spins, you could do the same with III: Trauma, but none of those eight song would ever give, and give and give… the pleasure that Agalloch did. Unfortunately. 3 of 5 points from me, for being good, but never any better.

    • jrichocean

      I am from the year 2118, and I traveled from the future just to tell you that parenthesis within parenthesis is stupid; your attempt to draw a simile between album art and music quality is convoluted; you need to understand how/when to use ellipsis/ellipses. This is advice from the future and will help you become a better human.