It’s hard to say much about Arson that hasn’t already been said before, by myself. That’s not to say I spend a lot of time talking about Austrian black metal outfit Harakiri For The Sky, so much as it is a comment on the fact that nothing about them has changed between July 22nd, 2016 – the date their last album, III: Trauma, was released – and February 16, 2018, the release date for Arson. The project still consists of instrumentalist/vocalist duo Matthias Sollak and Michael Wahntraum, it still functions as something of a side project for both as they pursue other projects on their own, and, most importantly, the music is still pretty much the same as it was.
I’m not sure there are readers of Heavy Blog that follow my writing specifically, but such a hypothetical reader would probably have developed a sense from my criticism and various longform pieces that I value creativity and novelty very highly, and such a hypothetical reader would probably find what I’m about to say very odd: it’s really fucking good that Harakiri For The Sky did not change up their formula at all between III: Trauma and Arson. Instead, they’ve chosen to do exactly what they did before, but just do it… better. That’s it, really. No grand reinvention or sonic pivot will be found on this record; the mix of blackgaze and atmospheric post-metal, occasionally tinged with melodic death metal and post-hardcore, is pretty much the same sound they’ve pursued in the past to a T.
Harakiri For The Sky is very unabashedly themselves, very openly and clearly making exactly what they want to hear – nothing more, nothing less. If there’s a song that really shows this, it’s the cover of “Manifesto” by Graveyard Lovers: it’s certainly a cover in their style, but what it does is lay bare exactly the components of their sound as a band. Although it’s an adaptation of an alternative rock song, we get the typical pained, far-away screams, chanted mantras, and triumphant, climactic black metal. It may not be anything new, but it’s invigorating as hell, and across the entirety of Arson, they know exactly when to employ what elements of their sound for maximum effect. Every crescendo hits like a bomb, every melody feels bracing and energetic, and overall, the lack of novelty is more than made up for by their sheer ability to just write great songs.
Although one of Harakiri For The Sky’s biggest strengths is in their straightforward nature, this also ends up being their Achilles’ heel, considering the lengths of their albums. Arson clocks in at a mammoth one hour and 11 minutes, and while there’s certainly an argument to be made that this is just a necessary evil considering how their writing style results in long songs, it does make listening to this record in one sitting inconvenient at best and obnoxious at worse. No track in particular is worse than any other, but it’s easy to see how Arson could have definitely shed some weight without taking any real losses in terms of its impact.
At the end of the day, Arson is a good, reliable album from a good, reliable band. Harakiri For The Sky aren’t exactly a revelation in the word of black metal, but they’ve mastered the art of being consistently good, and, more importantly, being consistently themselves. Arson is the sound of a band completely assured in the how and why of what they do, and it shows. This will certainly not be 2018’s most original album, but Arson demonstrates that just being great at what you do is better than being unique for its own sake. After all, when it’s this far from broken, why bother trying to fix it?
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Harakiri For The Sky releases Arson through Art of Propaganda records on February 16. You can preorder it here.