I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but the cover art accompanying Harakiri For The Sky’s upcoming III: Trauma bears more than a slight resemblance to that of Agalloch’s classic 2002 sophomore album, The Mantle. Even if the visual similarity is entirely coincidental, however, the members of HFTS would almost certainly cite Agalloch as a musical influence. HFTS formed in Austria in 2011 — the same year Deafheaven (another likely HFTS forebear) dropped their debut LP, Roads To Judah — and since then, they’ve released a pair of full-lengths: 2012’s self-titled LP and 2014’s Aokigahara. Which means people have been recommending HFTS to me for at least four years now. Because, y’know, I love Deafheaven and Agalloch, so it stands to reason I’d love these guys, too, right? And, to be fair, I listened and I liked ‘em OK, but my appreciation never approached “love.” Until now.
III: Trauma is hands down one of my favorite black metal albums this year. Understand, it’s black metal of a very particular variety: melancholic and bombastic, rigidly constructed and almost mathematically precise, with elements of folk and post-rock and hints of melodic death metal. There’s not a single stray note or errant snare hit to be found on Trauma; the dedication to craft here is nothing short of extraordinary. Of course, that sort of perfectionism wouldn’t be worth a damn thing if it weren’t employed in the service of the songs — and these songs are works of breathtaking beauty and melodic dynamism, using their tonal shifts and cascading riffs to wring maximum emotional impact at every new turn.
My favorite song on III: Trauma is “Funeral Dreams,” which dropped today via No Clean Singing. It’s nine minutes long but I could hang with this one at twice that length (I usually listen to it three or four times in a row, in fact). Every melodic motif introduced at any point seems to return as the song builds to one (or more) of its many climaxes. I sometimes try to untangle each section to figure out how they built the damn thing, but I usually just feel my head going fuzzy and my heart racing and my pace building to a gallop if not a sprint. Not everybody goes in for this sort of black metal — it’s graceful and bold and unapologetically catchy (but still heavy as fuck when the blasts kick in and the big riffs connect) — so it may not be your thing. But man, it is definitely my thing, and I’m so thankful to have it. Now you’ve got it, too. Listen.
III: Trauma is out 7/22 via Art Of Propaganda.