TITLE: COMPELLED TO SUFFER
WORDS: STEVEN LOFTIN
London metal upstarts Harbinger have delivered a debut that fully capitalises on all they’ve built so far, finally making that move they’ve been threatening to make over the last few years. With their previous two EP’s, ‘Paroxysm’ & ‘Human Dust’, they introduced the world to their frantic and menacing take on metal. It’s a sound that wasn’t influenced by the world around it, rather digging deep below the murky surface and coming up strong with an infectiously familiar yet refreshingly new sound. On ‘Compelled To Suffer’, they kick things up a hell of a lot.
As the delicate atmosphere lightly builds, signaling the beginning of this significant chapter, the urgent abrasion of Harbinger properly kicks into gear – churning a growl from hell, never has an opening track been apter than ‘The Awakening’. Across the hellscape they’ve created, it’s clear that this is Harbinger with their eyes set firmly upon dissecting humanity and all its flaws, and perhaps wondering, what the fuck should we do? Digging deeper into the album provides no real answers to this absurdly large question, but rather an understanding about the hectic nature of our species.
“Across the hellscape they’ve created, it’s clear that this is Harbinger with their eyes set firmly upon dissecting humanity and all its flaws”
The sludgy attacks that rear up – thanks to the rhythm section of Joel Scott (drums) and Kris Aarre (bass) – create a basal layer from which Harbinger erect vast darts of vicious, precise directives, the joint sound of guitarists Charlie Griffiths and Ben Sutherland. These firing breakdowns are swiftly turning into a triumphant deliverance, and more importantly, the norm for Harbinger. While the flurries hit hard and fast before colliding into these fractioned notes, most notable is the variation of vocalist Tom Gardner who can go from soaring screeches to guttural growls with such ease you wonder if they aren’t just using a multitude of animal samples.
There’s absolutely no doubting their abilities as tech-metal gurus in the making. It feels like Harbinger are a freight-train screaming through a station at speed, continually threatening to pick up monumental speeds. The peaceful seconds bestowed on ‘The Fear Of Sorrow’ allow the listener to take stock of surviving up until this point, but it’s only a momentary respite a the track soon glitches into another onslaught. You may think you’ve heard the brutality, but the reality is you haven’t heard anything yet.
“Harbinger never fail to shock, surprise and just ‘get it right’“
By the time the unsuspecting ending of ‘Entropy’ hits, there’s a feeling that there really is nowhere else to go. It’s a track that directly opposes the meaning in its title, or perhaps alludes to the reality that a peaceful summit awaits us once we drag ourselves up the face of this chaos-ridden mountain called life, and how do they do this? An instrumental guitar ballad. That’s right. After fighting through the flames, taking stock of humanity and the suffering, Harbinger greets us with a sparse and delectably eighties-sounding guitar ballad. How many new bands *dare* do that?!
It’s a triumphant effort from the five-piece. Harbinger never fail to shock, surprise and just ‘get it right’. No stone has been left unturned on this debut; it’s a culmination of a lot of bloody hard work and sheer, unhinged determination. They may have named their debut ‘Compelled to Suffer’ but the only emotion felt here is an utter joy.