REVIEW: Harm.icu – Hakujona [2024]

Artist: Harm.icu
Album: Hakujona

If you’re reading this review right now, you’re probably doing so because you’re a fan of “extreme” music—that’s most of what I personally tend to review, after all. Subgenres of metal and punk like death metal, hardcore, metalcore, deathcore, slamming brutal death metal, so on and so forth all dwell under this umbrella, despite their differences—but newcomers Harm.icu opt for a different approach when one considers the moniker “extreme.” In brief, everything about Hakujona, the outfit’s debut record, is done to the absolute extreme. There are no half measures, no “playing it safe,” nothing even remotely sterile; everything is a full measure of devotion towards absolute insanity. Breakdowns with bass and drums that will clip the living shit out of your headphones, lyrics that are as profane and volatile as the voice that delivers them and monstrous guitars that sound like a blend between a chainsaw, a diesel engine and the gaping maw of Cerberus—you’re starting to get the picture. A chaotic and intense monolith to the curious phenomena that was the “Facebook Beatdown” wave, Hakujona is a true monster…but in all the best ways.

I remember the first time I pressed play on “small_dog32.” It was one of those moments where everything is so primally brutalizing right from the first second that all you can really do is laugh. Much of Harm.icu’s record follows in those same footsteps; a release so jarring and oppressive that all you can really do is just bang your head and soak it in. With members of CROOK, C O L U M B I N E, The Milwaukee Protocol and then some in tow, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that the modus operandi of Hakujona is kill, followed shortly thereafter by maim and eviscerate. Just about every song is a crushing amalgam of bone-busting breakdowns and hyperdissonant, oppressively chunky grooves utilizing an incredible amount of texture, dynamism and subtle flashes of technical brilliance to compensate for the low-and-slow pace that strides the line dividing beatdown and downtempo deathcore. “[PEDOPHILE GRINDER]” is an outstanding example of how raucous and ruthless Harm.icu can be, while “region beta” demonstrates rare and much-relished moments of speed that do a stellar job of picking up the momentum—especially as the song closes in a cybernetic frenzy. Simply put, Harm.icu capture and distill the finest instrumental elements of the crushing, slow and dismal atmos of the early 2010s and give it a smothering, malicious overhaul.

Hakujona is home to a comprehensive and creative approach to crushing the listener—both in consideration of their instrumental and vocal elements. The low bellows and girthy roars of Harm.icu’s debut offering absolutely pulverize, with everything from unsettling gurgles and gutturals abundant on “small_dog32” to panic-inducing shouts and screams on the ungodly “[PEDOPHILE GRINDER].” The record is lyrically dense with unsettling content (those familiar with the aforementioned other projects of the band’s members likely aren’t surprised), and there could not be a more fitting vector for their delivery than the array of ungodly sounds, screams and shouts that define Hakujona’s brief runtime. Even the quicker, more spastic moments of “CD1000D” feature a blistering low bellow, in keeping with the other ten-ton, hyperdense elements of the release.

Extreme, aggressive, dense and smothering are all fitting adjectives for Hakujona—but in reality, it’s a hard release and experience to describe, especially if you, the reader, happen to be newer to the odd sonic playground that was the early 2010’s Chugcore-driven dissonant beatdown wave. Feeling both futuristic and nostalgic while being wholly abrasive and unapologetic, Harm.icu is a non-stop, no-frills lesson in brazen heaviness and is likely the most extreme and totally committed dive into this sound and style seen yet—or certainly in the last decade, making it a must-listen to anyone who fancies themselves an aficionado of heavy music.

9/10
For Fans Of: CROOK, Blunt Trauma, Genocide District, Disaster Path, Beyond the Aftermath
Connor Welsh