Artist: Harakiri for the Sky
Album: III: Trauma
Label: Art of Propaganda
Genre: Post-Black Metal
The follow-up to 2014’s amazing Aokigahara has finally come! III: Trauma is Harakiri for the Sky’s third full length album. Their second album, Aokigahara, was an amazing piece of music, and it made my top 10 albums list for that year. There are some really gorgeous riffs on that album, and Harakiri for the Sky was able to iron out all of the issues in production and pacing that held their debut back. The question that I was constantly asking while waiting for this album to drop was: will it live up to Aokigahara?
Harakiri for the Sky plays a fairly unique blend of alt-rock and black metal, topped with vocals that almost fall into screamo camp. It’s definitely an offshoot of Alcest and similar bands, and it also wants to lean heavily on DSBM, since almost all of the lyrics are about depression and suicide. However, since all of the vocals are delivered in this hoarse shout, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same feel that DSBM has. The vocals want to denounce and combat these concepts, rather than revel in them the way DSBM does, so the tone of the music is completely different. The instrumentals tend to be a mix of fairly standard power chords and drums paired with the occasional black metal tremolo or the kind of crescendo you would hear in some of great atmospheric black metal bands. And across it all is a production that lets you know that this music isn’t trying to be polished, but it’s not raw either.
Now that we’ve gotten the description of the music out of the way, let’s get to the important part of the review: the complaints! Unfortunately, I have several issues with III: Trauma. First of all, this album is 115 minutes long — 8 songs, all of them at least 9 minutes long, with a handful breaching the 10 minute mark. It is too long. There is nothing tying these songs together and there is no justification for the album length made by the music. I feel myself losing attention after about 5 – 6 songs. I have listened to the album completely about 5 times, and I still don’t feel like I have fully absorbed it. Worse still, there is no one song that I can jump to and say “Well this is a great song.” All of the songs are good, but there is no moment that jumps out to me as great. After one listen of Aokigahara I had three songs that I thought were amazing and could easily point them out. I still can’t point out an amazing song on III: Trauma. I am blaming this directly on the lack of really beautiful riffs. I expect that this was a decision made by Harakiri for the Sky to make their music less “pretty”; Aokigahara had guitar passages that were clearly influenced by those sweet moments from Alcest, and I thought those were some of the best moments. III: Trauma tosses these out in favour of a more driving, direct approach. My guess is that the band wanted to be considered “heavier”. But honestly, I don’t see how a band playing this kind of music can be treated as truly heavy. The vocals alone will always prevent Harakiri for the Sky from being a “grim metal band”, so why not just own it?
The album is fine; the songs are decent and Harakiri for the Sky continues to do the style that they are known for. But it is seriously lacking some climaxes throughout the extended run-time, making it more of a slog than anything else. It just didn’t live up to the amazing album that was Aokigahara, and that is sorely disappointing.
Get it on Bandcamp: https://artofpropaganda.bandcamp.com/album/iii-trauma