Unkind – Harhakuvat

Unkind

Harhakuvat

01. Harhakuvat
02. Kaivannot
03. Laumasielut
04. Ylpeä perhe
05. Johtajat ja uhrit
06. Läsnä
07. Tämä päivä
08. Koulutettu epäonnistumaan

[08/02/11]
[Relapse Records]

Since the release of last years amazing self-titled album from the Norwegian outfit Kvelertak, I’ve been chomping at the bit for another band of that caliber to make it’s way into my crosshairs. Luckily this year has brought its fair share of new bands that will easily sustain my listening for months to come, but there was one band in particular that really stood out and caught my interest. Finland’s Unkind are a metallic hardcore/punk band with a d-beat and crust foundation and rather than just being another run of the mill hardcore band, Unkind display why they are different as their latest album, Harhakuvat, hits hard on an emotional level as its dark and ominous tone becomes a dirge for ones inner psyche.

Seeing as I’ve only just found out about Unkind not to long ago, I did some research and discovered that the band has released four other albums. Now I’ve yet to hear any of them, so I’m coming into this with no bias or comparisons to make towards their older material. This is my first taste of Unkind, and I felt it was best to take my time with it. Rather than spilling my initial thoughts and reactions all over the place, I decided to let this album sink in, because in all honesty, Harhakuvat is an album that needs to be digested over time.

With most other bands that fit the same mold as Unkind, tracks are usually quick bursts of anger and frustration, coupled with distortion and feedback. The faster and more angry the song is, the better. On Harhakuvat, the album runs shy of the forty minute mark, but the albums eight tracks make it seem as though it’s much longer. This is achieved by them layering atmosphere on top of atmosphere as each individual track continues the unrelenting nature of the one that preceded it. And Unkind are no strangers to the use of feedback in their songs, as it turns out to be one of the albums main elements. The feedback not only contributes to the darker tone, but it allows the tracks to be linked together by sort of bridging the two with music, rather than just blasting into the next track. It’s the well layered structure of these tracks that is so deep and resonating, that the album as a whole is one long desolated journey.

Harhakuvat doesn’t immediately open up right into high-paced drumming or drop-d riffing, instead it begins with a spooky, ethereal piano arrangement, setting a strangely eerie tone that becomes the cornerstone for the rest of the album. Soon enough the instruments come in and continue the slow build up to the inevitable crust-ridden, high-energy whirlwind of metal that is to come, and when it does, this album kicks into gear. The second track, “Kaivannot” wastes little time getting to the throaty growls and raging power chords, while bleak in tone, are quite infectious thanks to the strong guitar hooks. The song’s finale reveals something both surprising and delightful; a horn section, but worry not as the song still retains that aggressive sound without losing sight and showing any sign of weakness.

I spoke earlier about the use of feedback being a major factor of the album, and here is where it comes into play at the conclusion of “Kaivannot” into the opening of “Laumasielut”. From one into the other the two tracks become one as the smooth transition into “Laumasielut” carries over the atmosphere without hindering the flow. The band’s two guitarists intertwine minor key harmonies giving us one of the most melody-driven songs on Harhakuvat, which also happens to be my personal favorite.

Further throwing more into the mix, the following two tracks take up a chunk of the album and for the most part it’s mainly instrumental. “Johtajat Ja Uhrit”, which opens with acoustic guitars and ominous synth, is much slower in pace and driven by a very ominous and doom-riddled atmosphere that carries on for over seven and a half minutes. The song escalates into a catchy and crunchy chorus and at around the midway point an audio clip of a man discussing the topic of nazis, those of the Jewish faith, and Isrealites, all of which is in a manner that is well suiting to the dismal atmosphere and sound being performed closes the track. Without losing a beat though, the track bleeds into “Lasna”, which is mainly ambient guitars playing against a pulsing heartbeat.

The albums final tracks, “Tama Paiva” and “Koulutettu Epaonnistumaan”, bring back that storm of rage heard earlier in the album. But out of the two tracks, “Koulutettu Epaonnistumaan” contains more depth and its overall sound is fuller and upbeat, surprisingly enough since the rest of the album is quite morose. The track itself ends with about two minutes of guitar chords being rung out until they eventually fade, which closes the album out nicely.

Musically, the album is heavy with the slightest bit of a muffled effect to add to the already bleak tone. The album itself was recorded and mixed by Kari Nieminen at Noisecamp Studios in Turku, Finland and thanks to him, not one instrument was left behind. The guitars are high pitched and raw as they clash against one another unleashing plenty of catchy hooks and harmonies. The bass which often times is underproduced in final mixes, is actually very loud and pulses along with the music nicely. The drums are aggressive and similar to that of the guitars, acting as a stark contrast the less-bass-driven sounds of the album. The vocals are pretty straight-forward screams, the kind you hear on countless other metallic hardcore/punk albums, but I’m not knocking them at all, they suit the music well and there is real emotion behind them.

Unkind have made quite a strong statement with Harhakuvat. While perhaps not as widely known as fellow bands in the same scene, they have taken a unique stab at this style of music and the outcome is a breath of fresh air in what can easily become a stale and stagnant sound. Unkind are a band to keep your eyes and ears on, as I’m sure this album, for the most part, will be their first introduction to many new fans, myself being one of them. Other than Trap Them’s Darker Handcraft, this is easily one of the best hardcore/crust-punk albums to not only be released this year, but in a very long time.

Unkind – Harhakuvat

4.5/5

– DA