Harakiri For The Sky - Mӕre review

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Band: Harakiri For The Sky
Album: Mӕre
Release date: February 2021

01. I, Pallbearer
02. Sing For The Damage We've Done [feat. Neige]
03. Us Against December Skies
04. I'm All About The Dusk
05. Three Empty Words
06. Once Upon A Winter
07. And Oceans Between Us
08. Silver Needle // Golden Dawn
09. Time Is A Ghost
10. Song To Say Goodbye [Placebo cover]

Harakiri For The Sky make their most compelling case yet for the argument that "there's no such thing as too much of a good thing", but I'm still not fully convinced.

After their (now surprisingly) compact self-titled debut dropped in 2012, blackgaze/post-black Austrian duo Harakiri For The Sky released three more full-lengths, all ranging between 65 and 75 minutes; the likes of Aokigahara and Arson certainly have their merits, but they were simply too long for their own good, without the variety or highlights to compensate. Vocalist J. J. showed a similar lack of restraint in last year's 75-minute behemoth from his Karg project, Traktat, so it may not be a surprise that new album Mӕre is another patience-tester. However, Harakiri For The Sky still manage to surprise; not only does Mӕre live up to the band's reputation for excess, but at 85 minutes, it's comfortably their longest album yet, which is even more bewildering considering they were pressured into removing a song featuring ex-Amesoeurs vocalist Audrey Sylvain ("Sing For The Damage We've Done", featuring fellow Amesoeurs/Peste Noire alunmus Neige, survived and is featured on Mӕre). I must confess that I rolled my eyes when I first received the promo copy and saw the runtime, but credit where credit's due, Mӕre came a lot closer to justifying its length than I was expecting.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Harakiri For The Sky fall fairly squarely in the blackgaze category; black metal shrieks, blast beats and liberal use of tremolo riffing are combined with plenty of dainty guitar melodies, mid-tempo melancholia and post-rock/metal-influenced soft/hard dynamics. With all tracks bar album closer "Song To Say Goodbye" (a Placebo cover) exceeding 7 minutes, there's plenty of time for multiple soft/hard back-and-forths, meaning that Mӕre is consistently varied in terms of dynamics, if not style. There is some, if not much, stylistic diversity as well, with the Agalloch influences on the brooding "I'm All About The Dusk" giving way to post-hardcore energy on subsequent track "Three Empty Words".

Those that have heard Harakiri For The Sky previously will know that, whilst their capacity to retain interest across a record may be debatable, their intrinsic ability to write compelling music within the blackgaze niche is not; the duo have a keen ear for satisfying guitar leads and melodic riffs, as well as a solid capacity to create moving, euphoric atmospheres. If you have any taste for this subgenre, skip to any random minute on the album and you're likely to jump into something enjoyable. A solid baseline of quality is punctuated with moments that truly shine, such as the urgent guitar leads in the more climactic sections of "Sing For The Damage We've Done" and the beautiful piano melodies that seep into parts of "I'm All About The Dusk". These two songs overall are amongst the strongest on Mӕre, along with the hypermelodic "And Oceans Between Us", which features memorable guitar leads pretty much throughout.

So if the individual building blocks are all good, how does Mӕre work as a whole? I think it partly depends on how you're listening to it. As background music, it flows by nicely without any obvious dip in quality, with the occasional highlights popping up to grab your attention and remind you that it's still powering on nicely. However, a more attentive listen does lead to some noticeable fatigue seeping in before all is said and done. Perhaps curiously, given that I flagged it early as a notable transition in style, but "Three Empty Words" is the song during playthroughs where I've typically found myself starting to get a bit distracted, only to groan when I realized that I had over half the album left. The song by itself isn't an issue; I don't think it needed to threaten the 10-minute mark, but there's some very enjoyable dual guitar melodies midway through and a fairly satisfying conclusion.

I think the songs being too long is half the problem; cutting out some of the more forgettable lulls and ideas that repeat from earlier songs would probably render the tracks both more distinctive and less fatigue-inducing. If the average runtime of the original songs here was around 7 rather than 9 minutes, the resulting runtime just going over an hour would be far more digestible. However, in addition to trimming the song lengths, I do feel that, whilst no song in particular clearly doesn't deserve a place, there are a couple of songs that make stronger candidates for the chopping block ("Us Against December Skies" and "Once Upon A Winter", although the latter could definitely justify its inclusion with some stringent editing), and including a cover on top of the 80 minutes of original music already featured on Mӕre was just as excessive here as it was when Oceans Of Slumber did the same on their self-titled album last year - make it a bonus track if you want, that's what everybody else does.

Overall, Mӕre is another strong demonstration of the songwriting skills that Harakiri For The Sky possess when it comes to the blackgaze genre, and the fact that they're capable of producing such an extensive volume of good music within 3 years of their previous leviathan, all whilst being distracted by other projects, is further testament to this. However, whilst Mӕre is arguably the strongest collections of songs that Harakiri For The Sky have put together to date, as a cohesive listening experience it is still hindered by its excesses. Given that both this band and J. J.'s Karg project have persisted in this approach, it seems unlikely to change anytime soon; however, it's entirely possible that working with some restrictions when writing could help the band to reach even greater heights in the future.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 14.02.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 89 users
15.02.2021 - 17:17

I cannot agree more .. I totally enjoy HftS for twenty, thirty minutes and then it just feels like it is dragging on forever.. that's why I enjoy them so much when they're plaing live .. if I've had enough, I just go to the bar to get another beer and when I am back I am fully hyped again for the next song
17.02.2021 - 18:20
Au Pays Natal
This band has gone the wrong way for me ever since their debut. Excellent review Matt. Thanks.

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