The AMG Overlords are vengeful overlords. One wrong step, one missed tithe, and an underling can find oneself working in the boiler room again. Or worse yet, getting duped into a review of something unexpected. Case in point, someone we all know and love was late with a review and thus, scrambling to get back in Madam and Steel’s good graces, frantically grabbed a promo described by the Overlords as “post-something.” I’ve been had. Heaven in Her Arms are a Japanese hardcore act who incorporate some progressive elements, some death elements, and some screamo, but not really any post-something. I suppose the song length could be post-something, but that’s about it. Regardless, I’ve bitten it off and now I have to chew it.
Some research was in order here: I haven’t really listened to much Japanese metal since, well, Loudness, and Loudness this ain’t. But Heaven in Her Arms have been around for ten years now, and despite this being their third proper release, White Halo is their first record to be issued in North America. Without having heard their first two releases, I’ve got a pretty open mind heading into this one, and musically these guys flash talent throughout, with a tight rhythm section, decent if stereotypical guitar playing, and tasteful atmospheric keyboard work. Too bad it’s all been brickwalled into a DR4 master, as White Halo only sounds passably decent during its quiet moments, of which there are plenty throughout.
White Halo starts off rather pointlessly, with the two-minute instrumental prelude “Ray of Light at Dusk.” Much like in books, preludes are a pet peeve of mine. If it’s important (in music and books) make it part of the first song/chapter: if it’s not, leave it out. In this case, it should have been left out, as should have the equally pointless midpoint ambient piece “Chain with Fetters.” Now, this distaste comes with a caveat: there’s a chance that White Halo is some sort of concept album, and these pieces somehow add to the story. I have no idea, though, because press is slim for Heaven in Her Arms, and all the lyrics are either screamed or muttered in Japanese. An English translation would have been a great add. Without it, White Halo is essentially a five-song album that’s incomprehensible to the majority of the world.
The five songs all follow a similar template. Blast away in death metal mode for a couple minutes, scream your way through the lyrics, then bring everything to a halt with a couple minutes of quiet, pensive, atmospheric music coupled with muttered lyrics before jumping back into screamo death mode. “Abyss of the Moonbow” features eight minutes of this, as does “Glare of the End.” “Entangled Torus” is, yes, another eight-minute scream-mutter-scream track, while album closer “Turbid Fog” drags it out for eleven minutes. And how about those song names? Love ‘em. But following the same template throughout makes these songs all just blend together and frankly starts to annoy the hell out of me by the end of the second song. I’m no fan of screaming to begin with, but Kent’s vocals (only first names for these guys) drive me further up the wall than normal.
White Halo is a complete miss for me, but there’s just as much a chance that this is a progressive hardcore Japanese masterpiece as there is the reverse. From what I’ve got to work with, though, Heaven in Her Arms have given us a brickwalled, chaotic, pretentious mess with repetitive arrangements. Solid musical abilities and moments of adept songwriting save this from complete failure, but I can’t find a compelling reason to listen to this again until I can understand Japanese. Lesson learned: no more late submissions from this boiler-room dweller!1
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Translation Loss
Websites: heaveninherarms.bandcamp.com | heaveninherarms.com/topics/index.html | facebook.com/heaveninherarmsjapan
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2017