REVIEW: Harm’s Way – Rust [2015]


Artist: Harm’s Way

Album: Rust


Rust—or iron oxide in certain circles—Is generally considered to be a bad thing. You never want it on your car, it stains your clothes and once it sets in, even the sturdiest metallic framework can fall prey to its immense appetite. However, despised as it is, there is truly no better sign of experience and hard-earned grit than rust, and Chicago’s Harm’s Way are here to prove it. Their latest offering, Rust, is a corrosive and crushing display of metallic hardcore prowess, combining crushing chasms of brooding dissonance with razor-sharp metallic riffing and chug-laden, mosh-pit friendly breakdowns. Rust is the sound of a band who have long since shrugged off the naivety and innocence of their past in favor of a more experience and extreme sound that proudly displays their broken bones and bloodied knuckles.

In a word, Rust is spastic: a combination of pedal-to-the-metal riff sessions driven by pummeling percussion and groovy, ultraviolent fits of furious heaviness. Look at “Law of the Land,” where percussionist Chris Mills leads the charge with lightning-like fills and roaring footwork that slices into the listener’s head with uncanny precision and ease. However, when tracks like “Infestation” and “Ease My Mind” manifest, the listener isn’t as lucky. Here, Mills trades in weapons of precision for weapons of slow, torturous annihilation. Breakdowns like the one concluding “Infestation” are simply enormous, as Mills takes a leaden pipe to the listener, breaking a bone with each meaty smack of his kick drum. These moments of hellacious heaviness showcase the thick, leaden fretwork of Bo Lueders and Jay Jancetic drench the listener in. Jancetic’s bass guitar is, simply put, raunchy (when it can be heard among the din of crashing cymbals and mammoth chugs). “Cancerous Ways” shines a special light on Jacetic’s bass, allowing its subterranean grooves to read their head and ensnare the listener, winding around their neck like a noose. Primarily though, Lueder’s furious fretwork and razor sharp riffing take the lead. “Amongst the Rust” (even with its cringeworthy name) is home to his catchiest and most contagious riff, while his bone-busting breakdowns and bare-knuckle beatdowns are at their top shape in “Left to Disintegrate” and “Infestation.” Harm’s Way are a band that are at their best when fast and tight or low, slow and sludgy, making their moments of in between instrumentation somewhat lackluster.

Rust not only has an acidic instrumental aspect, but an unstoppable vocal onslaught to match. Frontman James Pligge is every bit the relentless force that his name would suggest—barking, shouting and growling away, adding directed intensity and aggression to even the most dissonant soundscapes Harm’s Way hurl at the listener. For the most part, Pligge is dead-on, providing Harm’s Way with an equal-parts catchy and crushing voice that does enormous justice to their groove-friendly, yet unmistakably straightforward style of hardcore-influenced heaviness. Pligge shines on “Left to Disintegrate” and “Infestation,” just as “Turn to Stone” and “Amongst the Rust” are home to wonderful guest vocal appearances that add an eeriness that was lost among Pligge’s frantic shouts. However, “Cancerous Ways” introduces a bizarre chanting as Pligge’s attempt to connect with the song’s ethereal climax—an attempt that doesn’t quite hit its target. Slip-ups like those on “Cancerous Ways” are few and far between, though; giving the listener plenty of Pligge’s murderous barking to enjoy throughout Rust.

Between Pligge’s acrid, volatile vocals and instrumentation that can be as lethal as lung cancer or as benign as a bunny rabbit, Harm’s Way have established a dynamic that shines among a seas of dull metal-turned-hardcore musical acts. Rust is melodic and soothing at times (Emily Jancetic’s vocals in “Turn To Stone” provide this safe haven), yet metallic and sinister for its majority, oscillating between haste and heaviness with marked expertise–the sort of expertise that only experience can spawn. The quartet’s third full-length album, Rust is surely the sum of the greatest moments their previous releases have offered, with Reality Approaches’ bold, brazen energy and Isolation‘s insidious, evil nature mixed with a dash of maturity and precious little filler.

Harm’s Way take the hardcore identity Chicago is known for and give it a sharp twist of thrashy metal–then leave it out in the rain and cold to yield Rust: a catchy, crushing offering that is sure to please veterans of the band’s material as well as their newcomers.



For Fans Of: Nails, Dead End Path, Sepultura, Drowning, No Zodiac

By: Connor Welsh