The fourth offering, Arson, from Austrian post-black duo Harakiri for the Sky picks up where their last release, III: Trauma, left off and is truly something to behold. Each of the seven lengthy songs adds to the bleak emotional journey that comprises Arson. While post-black metal is hardly a new sub-genre HaraKiri for the Sky (HKFTS) once more proves they can breath new life into this melancholic strain of dark music giving it a familiar and novel feeling all at once.
Many bands struggle to provide a balance between emotive and raw elements but such is not the case here. The band seamlessly allows the songs to flow where they need to, when they need to. Thereby, removing the awkward, formulaic tendencies often invoked by others while trying to capture the atmosphere found on Arson. Woven throughout each of the monumental tracks, and bonus closer “Manifesto” (Graveyard Lovers cover), is a sense of urgency laced with an underpinning of sorrow that serves as building blocks to create an album of exceptional proportions (see “Fire, Walk with Me,” “Tomb Omnia,” or “Voidgazer”). Sincere and compelling emotional undercurrents give feeling to the songs while raw elements add the bite and energy to really propel the album beyond expectation.
The heartfelt performances of vocalist JJ and multi-instrumentalist MS are consistent throughout the album and are the hallmarks of the professionalism and quality exuded in every second of this release. JJ continues to refine his passionate raw vocals while at the same time retaining and improving the harshness he is becoming known for (think Darkest Hour in their prime with a twist of black metal). The captivating melodies in the guitar work spill flawlessly into the beautiful keyboard arrangements and bleed out perfectly against the arsenal of blackened warm toned riffs at play throughout the album (think Dark Tranquillity jamming with Alcest or Heretior with a twist of post-hardcore). For the first time the band has brought in a studio drummer Kerim Lechner (Krimh), of SepticFlesh, whose technical prowess serves to expand their soundscape even further.
Perfectly pacing lengthy songs that contain an abundance of great melodies and refreshing song writing is a task mastered by few. However, the quality of the craftsmanship on this album suggests the band have carefully considered every note that comprises this desolate, yet strangely exhilarating, forage into the post-black metal realms. Despite their calculated approach HKFTS have managed to keep the rawness of the songs in tact and, thereby, avoid the pitfalls of overthinking their work leaving the listener hungry for more. None of the tracks on Arson drag but rather continually flow showing the time taken to craft each song. Closing the album out with the dark and haunting cover of “Manifesto” feels like the perfect final note for the album. The addition of the beautifully sombre guest vocalist Silvi Bogojevic in “Manifesto,” adds the only thing I had left to ask for which was a dash of clean singing (like the memorable baritone on “Thanatos” from III: Trauma) to echo the sorrowful melodies in the music. The production, again provided by MS and Daniel Fellner, for the album really captures the dynamics of the songs providing the resonance and depth to make the tracks immersive but retains the raw edge of the sound to keep a sense of realness in the songs. Each of the instruments and JJ’s vocals has been captured with a full-bodied sound making it easy to get lost in intricacies of the music.
Arson feels more like an achievement rather than just a release. It is a surely a benchmark for the scene as its construction and presentation are near perfect. Personally, I would love to hear a bit more clean singing mixed in next time to contrast JJ’s harsh vocals but this is completely subjective as it really isn’t necessary. Every play seems to reveal previously unheard nuances while reinforcing the most memorable moments. At this point it is difficult to find an album free of filler, with songs that work as well as a whole as they do on their own, and that leaves you craving more the moment it ends but HKFTS have achieved just that with Arson.