Review: Harakiri for the Sky: Arson
Harakiri for the Sky blew up last year with their brand of chill atmospheric black metal upon the release of III: Trauma and I am totally unsurprised. The album is full of very listenable, well-produced melodic tunes that landed them as an excellent entry-level black metal band for progressive-minded types. In fact, I enjoyed it enough on first listen that while sifting through the mass of new material we get here, they stood out as a band I wanted to review. It wasn’t until a few listens in, towards the end of my review writing, that I started to actively dislike some of the melodic pieces. Specifically, the abundance of aggressively mid-paced riffs that almost come off as sounding… lazy? It’s hard to really pinpoint what exactly about them started to annoy me, but I still enjoyed most of the album. Oh yeah, that and the fact that III: Trauma was an hour and fifteen minutes long. Far too long for something that honestly doesn’t vary all that much.
Now that I am done shitting on III (it’s good, listen to it), here is everything they did right on Arson:
Kicking things off with “Fire, Walk with Me”, they lay down nine minutes of energetic material with basically no lulls. Extended track length has always been a thing for them, but they seemed to fall into that trap for forgetting to make the whole thing feel like a “song”, as in, a cohesive memorable thing that has an identity. Trauma had trouble pulling that off, so it is exciting to see them moving in the right direction on the opening track. It still meanders a bit, but all parts are working together. The song benefits from dropping long stretches of “post” material, leaving more room for their blackened stuff to breathe and naturally incorporating short bursts when it makes sense.
This new trend continues until “You Are the Scars”, which is the first throwback to their usual melancholy post-black metal. Old fans won’t be disappointed with the slow build, but even if it’s a snooze for you, the last 2 minutes are (nearly) worth the wait. While using their well-trodden technique of chilling you out then smashing you with a hammer, there’s less of that lackadaisical fret-walking fake-catchiness. Despite not loving their old songwriting schtick, I don’t mind it for here for album pacing.
Approaching the end of the album, I got to thinking “hm, this is all really well done this time, but they still aren’t really doing anything dramatically different than what is out there. I hope they start experimenting a bit.” Then BAM, a disjointed riff opening and a silly breakdown on “Void Omnia” pops up, and then comes a weird proggy interlude in the middle of “Stillborn” that I am still having trouble coming to terms with. I really like that they broke the mold a little here, and while it’s not all spectacularly done, the attempt to slip into new territory makes them my favorite songs on the record.
HFTS being just a two-man project, the drums never seemed to be something songwriter M.S. focused on. Picking up the fellow Austrian ex-Decapitated and current Septicflesh drummer for studio work really seemed to change that, and it shows with some interesting flare throughout including replacing some of that unrelentingly mid-tempo blasting. Vocalist J. J. seems much stronger around this time as well. There still aren’t any vocal surprises, but subtle inflections and varying intensity go a long way to shift the mood.
Upon all this improvement, they still didn’t really fix the length issue with a runtime at 70 minutes, and the only song less than 8 minutes is a cover (with really good guest vocals). It’s a bit of a marathon, and I still found myself wishing that most tracks were two minutes shorter, but there’s a lot less to nitpick this time around. Also, Trauma just came out SEVEN MONTHS AGO. These dudes need to take a chill pill with output, lest they become the next Devin Townsend.
Arson is Harakiri for the Sky shifting genre priorities, becoming a black metal band that uses their proven post and melodic abilities to further establish an identity in a crowded field. They are still the same band and old followers will undoubtedly stick around after this iteration, but more importantly, people we panned them before should start to take notice.
4 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Arson will be released February 16 via AOP Records. Here’s some Facebook.