Hailing from Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, Harakiri for the Sky delivers their fourth full length album and another addition to their unique brand of post-black metal. Continuing with the subject matter of their previous releases, Arson is a lengthy journey into the harrowing depths of depression and suicide, dredging up painful themes that have been touched upon by many black metalists since the emergence of the genre. This is no Xasthur or Leviathan, however. There are no lo-fi, hellishly distorted guitar riffs, nor do the vocals sound as if they are being gurgled out in spurts of bloody vomit (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead, what one finds here is a carefully crafted sonic contradiction, where atmospheric and melodic passages are interwoven with the darker, more brutalistic elements that are typically associated with black metal.
The majority of the rhythm sections are appropriately dominated by blast-beats, delivered by the ever talented Kerim “Krimh” Lechner (of Septic Flesh), and this serves as a perfect juxtaposition to many of the melodies that form the basis for this record. As the ground pounds, the guitar riffs soar in the form of mournful yet painfully hopeful cries (see “Heroin Waltz”), adding an ounce of transcendent melancholy that is atypical of your standard black metal offering. Soft, clean, sorrowful interludes (such as those on the track Voidgazer) call to mind elements of Opeth and Dissection, and break up the intensity of the more grinding, painful choral passages, lending a sense of duality to the record.
Frontman J.J. still maintains the throaty harshness that has remained a staple of black metal while at the same time delivering his hoarse mournful cries with a greater amount of intelligibility. While branching from the typical vocal style of the genre, this greater clarity allows for more subtle nuances in tone, leading to a palpable sense of pain and sorrow in his performance.
Beauty is uncommon and, under certain circumstances, outright shunned in some black metal circles. More often than not, the genre is consumed by a trend to amplify the ugliness and formlessness of an existence that is usually portrayed as futile. Yet plenty of beauty exists here, and serves to provide not only a fresh listening experience from the norm but, more importantly, a certain sense of morbid appreciation for the bleaker moments in life.
The Gist: Those who ascribe to the “Kvlt” side of black metal, stay away, this is probably not for you. However, if you have an open mind or haven’t indulged in the dark majesty that is black metal, this could quite possibly be your gateway drug. The ethereal tones and melancholic melodies that Harakiri for the Sky produce here are a perfect example of the creative possibilities that lie in the future of black metal.