|5 (2 votes):|
When it comes to metal, no genre goes unnoticed by me, at least I’d like to think so. Even genres like the “core” subgenres, while not the most appealing to my tastes, still have stand-out bands that can make me appreciate the genre a tad bit more, and this sentiment goes for most other genres as well. So it’s a shame when something like The Harrier by Italy’s Hiss from the Moat lands in my lap. There are death metal bands I absolutely adore, and the same can be said for black metal as well, but when it comes to the fusion genre of black/death metal, I haven’t found that band that really wowed me yet. Did this album knock my socks off? It was entirely possible, as with every album I receive, I’m wholly optimistic that it might be a new favorite, and plus, this band is from Italy, and Italy has produced some of my favorite metal bands of all time, so let us dig into The Harrier.
To start off with the negative, just to get it out of the way, is the fact that this album falls into a common pitfall that most basic genre bands fall into. Now first off, to explain what I think a “genre band” is, is simply a band that can be confused with any other band of its genre, as it doesn’t do anything too new, revolutionary, often lacking a distinct flare or personality. To be clear, this album doesn’t make this band a “genre band” but it definitely has some symptoms of such. The first pratfall is the lyrical subject, which is oh so common with the black metal scene: Anti-Christianity. Of course, this by itself is not an immediate indication of unoriginality, as many bands and writers have their own inventive ways to speak their mind and have a creative spin on any given subject. The Harrier however is overtly fixated on the self, and self-image, meaning a lot of “I’s”. The phrase “I am ___” appears on every song but 2, minding the instrumentals, and most of the time it is not a single utterance, and is repeated multiple times throughout a song. They do change up the phrase and nouns every now and then, but with much this album focuses on “I”, not only does it come off as lazy, but narcissistic and pompous, especially with an all too common lyrical theme. We get it, you don’t like Christian people and you’re super dark and brutal for not liking Jesus, anything else? It’s nothing against them personally or the subject matter, it just feels so transparent and by the books. It’s of note that the band started out as a deathcore group, focusing on inner struggles, so it is very much possible that the focus on the self, bled over from the band’s earlier days. Even though the band phrases their lyrics in a very self-fellating manner, the use of many biblical names, places, history and even verses, is quite interesting, and feels like a statement directed not only at Christians, but the Christian god himself. Even with the very basic lyrics, the direction of them is a silver lining, much like my next gripe.
Blanket statement, the most clichéd way to open an album, is with an ambient/atmospheric style that sounds nothing like the rest of the album, and this album is not absolvent of this. The only way it could get more cliché is if there was a sample ripped from a movie, or a dark choir proclaiming the coming of Satan™. But this album does succeed in the only way a band can when having an intro of such: by matching the tone. Dark, brooding, unforgiving, and cold, the tone of the album is a bonafide metal match for the ambient intro. Thankfully, the interlude does not continue the ambient trend, and settles for an acoustic break from the mayhem, with a heavy Italian folk influence, and intentional dissonance that matches the character of the album, while also offering an impressive melody. There also scuffs and breathes in the background that add to the intense picking, but whether this is intentional or not, I’m not sure, but either way it adds to the track.
As I mentioned before, yes this band was a deathcore band, and that might be a red flag to some, but not given that information and listening to this album without context, you’d never know, aside from maybe two riffs. The vocals are as black as the night, and absolutely accentuate the cold atmosphere of anger. The vocal patterns can be exceptionally entertaining, like on the track “Sine Animvs”, creating an unusual catchiness to them. The guitars are clearer than the usual black metal act, and are more akin to death metal in terms of riffs and writing, but still have a black metal timbre to them: sharp and cold. The drumming is the typical black metal blast beat, but occasionally breaks out a militaristic, marital drumming style, which the guitars mimic on the final track. Speaking of the final song, another nitpick I have is the build up to it, which is very minimal. It feels like an amalgamation of songs, which could be placed on shuffle between the first and last song, and the structure of the album wouldn’t be that different, but at least the final song actually feels like such, leading out with that hypnotizing riff as mentioned before. And while the songs themselves don’t build up to anything in the grand scheme, by themselves they create and genuinely great listening experience, most of the songs are blasting, fierce, unmerciful bursts of hatred and blasphemy, with unholy soloes from the bowels of Gehinnom.
This album is good, not anything mind-blowing or life-changing, but a genuinely fun and even exciting time. Moving past the lyrics, this album has a bunch of great songs, packed to the brim with intensity and manic passion. Hard riffs, impeccable soloes, and a rampaging tempo fast enough to rip the heavens from the sky, with a surprising amount of atmosphere and morbid tones. I’m sure fans of black/death metal will love this album, and even someone like myself with high expectations can appreciate this album for what it is.