The Austrian duo have set a post-black metal benchmark with a 10-track wonder.
Words by Heaviest of Art:
After some unfortunate delays in physical production, which comes at no surprise given the circumstances, HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY welcome their fifth full-length chapter, the immaculate Mære.
Arriving on February 10th via the band's longtime partners at AOP Records, Mære is M.S. and J.J. at their best. I, Pallbearer welcomes one to the melancholic world that the Austrian's have crafted here, serving as the ideal entry point into the versatility that awaits. By now, HFTS have mastered the art of bridging extremes and I, Pallbearer is yet another testament of that as it leads with grace, explodes with sheer rage, and then tones it back down with a somber piano performance to die for. Sing For The Damage We've Done, which features none other than Alcest's Neige on additional vocals, continues the diverse approach to song structure and comes at listeners once again with serenity. At moment's notice, J.J. erupts, letting the loss and trauma that inspired their lyrics melt with the power of his screams. Sing flows with seamless cohesion and never falls short of leaving one breathless, constantly waiting for M.S.' next melodic masterclass.
Us Against December Skies follows with one of M.S.' strongest guitar performances to date, bursting at the seams with gorgeous guitar melodies that carry the weight forward alongside piercing J.J. screams. With earth-shattering double bass and blast beats on the back end, these guitar centered mid-sections are what make the track an easy standout amidst a collection of gems. The glistening And Oceans Between Us is a tremolo-picked treasure that explores the band's range. J.J.'s vocals hit a new heightened intensity while while the instrumentals keep an elusive balance. Seeing as the recording and production on Mære was done by M.S. himself, it benefits from an organic approach to sound, the likes of which has been explored over the past decade. And Oceans Between Us is as well rounded as it gets, and again speaks to the songcraft present throughout.
Meike Hakkaart, who was entrusted with the record's album cover duties, matched the raw nature of the hymns embodied within, depicting a wolf with a jaw forcefully uncovered while a black and white bird watches on the back cover. Like Striga's illustrations for Arson (2018) or really anything in the band's discography, Mære incorporates a specific choice in animals to elaborate on the thematic delivery, which speaks of the band's conscious efforts to approach every element of their releases with detail rather than it being a mere marketing ploy. That said, Mære is as visually pleasing as it is sonically, giving physical copy owners a neat companion to look through while the riffs enter the soul.
Now a decade since first forming, HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY have hit yet another great stride in a respected catalog that has helped shaped the contemporary post and atmospheric black metal arenas. From the opening beauty of I, Pallbearer to the elegant closing of their take on Placebo's Song To Say Goodbye, Mære is every bit a journey that you'd want to revisit time and time again even months past its release. It keeps you on edge, constantly unfolding with layers upon layers of sorrow and power, creating a duality that excels in musical experimentation. In a time where the black metal arrives by the boatloads, it becomes hard to separate the great from the rest. Let it be known that Mære stands tall among its counterparts.
Mære is available on February 19th via AOP Records. Order your copy HERE.