Album: Paroxysm – EP
Sometimes when catastrophe strikes, we get lucky—or about as lucky as one can get on the brink of disaster. Before crisis erupts, we might be fortunate enough to get a forewarning: tremors before an earthquake or tingling and numbness before a stroke, you get the picture. But for the biggest and most marked moments of devastation, there is often no warning—no harbinger of impending doom. This is true of the young UK quintet Harbinger. Even in spite of their name and the fact that the band is built from former members of well-known heavy acts Acrania, Doomed from Day One and more, the band’s debut EP, Paroxysm still completely overwhelms the listener. So consider this your one true warning: Harbinger are simultaneously heavy enough to break an elephant’s back and melodic enough to wind their way subtly into the deepest parts of your subconscious—catchy and crushing, Paroxysm is destruction on an immense scale.
Harbinger draw just as much from their members’ slamming, sinister side as they do from catchy, masterfully written contemporary melodic death metal elements. Percussionist Joel Scott is energetic and aggressive—constantly hammering away with a brilliant combination of speedy blast beats and slamming, ride-bell heavy brutality. “Subsidized Slaughter” sees him covering an entire spectrum of influences in a single song–beginning with groovy kick drum patterns and dropping into devastating double-kick barrages and bold blast beats with ease. Meanwhile, “Instruments of Guilt” is a more straightforward display of his percussive prowess: Scott included speedy fills and slick kick patterns into a rudimentary and groovy framework to catch the listener’s ear, while bassist Kris Aarre rumbles alongside him. Aarre provides a thick, meaty low end that echoes every smack of Scott’s kick drum—giving guitarists Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffths a meaty firmament from which they can riff, chug, groove and shred to their heart’s content. “A Fractured World” is the most varied display of their furious fretwork—followed closely by “Subsidized Slaughter.” Here, Sutherland and Griffiths include metallic solos and melodies among the fray of frenzied chugs and grooves that make up their arsenal of aggressive songwriting. Every song, indeed, highlights a different skill of theirs—be it the thrashy speed of “Falsifier” or the melancholy solo found within “Subsidized Slaughter.”
Vocally, Harbinger is a far cry from the bland mid-range yells of melodic death metal or the brees and squees of slamming death metal. Frontman Tom Gardner boasts an impressive range, hitting everything from putrid low bellows to piercing shrieks—including (barely) clean vocals that are hit-or-miss in nature. While the clean singing that appears later in the album is much more tasteful, the pitched screaming and harsh singing heard throughout “Falsifier” takes a lot of getting used to—mostly because it doesn’t seem to fit the song’s hellish candor and harsh aggression. Otherwise, Gardner’s vocal effort is too-notch—as the grows and low screams on “Instruments of Guilt” are deceptively catchy, and the relentless display of force on “Survival” shows just how much of a vocal powerhouse Gardner truly is.
Harbinger provides a unique dynamic—seamlessly transitioning between terrifying heaviness and tasteful, almost soothing moments of melody. There are moments where the quintet find themselves doing a little too much—the clean vocals on “Falsifier” and the somewhat random (but still cool) solo on “Instruments of Guilt” being two solid examples. However, looking at Paroxysm as a whole, Harbinger are incredibly talented at not just playing their instruments, but at writing songs that flow well and feature densely packed content—in both catchy and crushing forms. For this reason, both metal heads who avoid –core and –core fanatics bored by metal owe it to themselves to give Paroxysm a chance—fair warning: you will enjoy it more than you might suspect.
For Fans Of: Malevolence, Cattle Decapitation, All That Remains, Whitechapel
By: Connor Welsh