Sadness and depression are heavy subject matters. Anyone who suffers from these, one or the other or both, knows the enormous pressure and crushing emotion that goers with these things, and they can’t be topped easily, if at all. It only makes sense that these best can be dealt with in the realms of heavy music, where the weight of the world can be transferred to your art.
Austrian band Harakiri for the Sky have been doing an excellent job embodying these harsh emotions and their consequences for half a decade now, and there’s no way to immerse yourself in their work and not feel every ounce of chaos they smear into it. Their latest record “III: Trauma” is more from that same well, post-black metal mixed with melodic doom that wrenches every last drop of blood from its mangled heart. Obviously just using the term harakiri, a form of ritual suicide based on disembowelment (watch the first season of “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon to get a constant dose of what this entails), pretty much has them setting their cards on the table from the outset. Tough to imagine you’re going to be served uplifting material, you know? But their music also can be consoling in a sense, as people who suffer along with them can find like-minded souls also looking for way to survive. Or just find relief, no matter the source.
Harakiri, as noted, formed in 2011, and their first, self-titled record would arrive a year later. That record was a mere gash at the veins considering what would follow, namely their 2014 album “Aokigahara” (named after Japan’s noted and haunting suicide forest), and now they’ve followed with another volatile collection, this eight-track, 75-minute behemoth “Trauma” that’s quite a bit to chew on. The duo—vocalist/lyricist J.J. and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter M.S.—have created a piece that might be better digested in halves. The songs run the gamut of emotions, and once you get through a good chunk of this, some breathing space might help you better digest. Or, if you’re a masochist, dive in and take in the entire record at once, as it washes over you with thick, unavoidable darkness.
“Calling the Rain” is the devastating 11:28-long opener, a track that tears apart and spills in the blackness. Harsh vocals pelt at you, while keys drip, giving the track a sense of gothic majesty, and the song keeps gushing as it slithers along slowly. The sentiment of torment and loss is impossible to shake, with J.J. wailing, “This was the year of the great depression,” sending the tidal wave over your head as you’re washed out to sea. “Funeral Dreams” is rich and dank, with J.J. warning, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” The music crunches and pushes down on you, as sorrow and fury collide and form a dark umbrella over the song, ending the track in cinematic heaviness. “Thanatos” starts with clean guitars before it unleashes its force. Later, a feeling of calm arrives, as clean singing adds a different element, only to ignite into flames and burn toward the furious ending. “This Life Is a Dagger” delivers what its title indicates, with cold, shadowy playing, melody unfurling, and the vocals scarring along the song’s mid-pace. There are a pocket of tempo shifts, with it all ending in dreary darkness.
“The Traces We Leave” has a delicate first few moments, beginning to trickle cleanly and gently before drums open up and launch devastation, and the pace itself hits higher gear. The melodies plink away like a driving ice storm, and then the thing hits full force, with anguish charging from every one of J.J.’s words, and the melodies wrapping around and causing disorienting feelings. “Viaticum” punches bluntly, though some of this feels disarmingly upbeat musically. Energy bursts, with J.J.’s growls scraping as he pokes, “Time means nothing.” Elements cascade, while guitars hit a gazey high, and the final minutes are forceful and emotionally bruising. “Dry the River” is a particularly effective one, with watery guitars arriving before the pounding gets under way. Much of this is slow-driving and menacing, going back and forth between ugly and soothing, with the bottom torn out near the song’s conclusion. There, the drums erupt, the guitars frazzle, and the whole thing ends with a heart-stopping gun shot. Closer “Bury Me” hits a charge at the stop before mixing into atmospheric playing and roared growls. Strong riffs arrive and provide a rush of power, as every other piece of the song comes in punishing pulses, providing more force and sadness as J.J. laments, “I must have passed the point of no return.”
Harakiri for the Sky’s music chews at your essence and makes you confront the dark forces within you that are bringing you to your knees. “III: Trauma” is a record that might make you more aware of these things and even could spark a bit of panic. But in the end, it’s a passionate, emotionally destructive record that can strike the pain within you and perhaps help you see it in a different light.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HarakiriForTheSky
To buy the album, go here: http://www.art-of-propaganda.de/shop/index.php
For more on the label, go here: http://www.art-of-propaganda.de/