REVIEW: Harakiri for the Sky – Mære

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HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY is an Austrian post-black metal band that has been making waves as pioneers in the scene since their debut back in 2011. Four studio albums later, they have established a broad following and solidified their undeniably huge potential. Their highly anticipated fifth full-length studio effort, “Mære,” is named after a malicious being from Germanic/Slavic folklore that comes at night to sit on your chest, causing nightmares and sleep paralysis. Along with the chillingly beautiful cover art, the atmosphere is set for another journey into the deep, dark abyss of the human psyche. The nightmare demon seduces you to dive in and marvel at the horrors you will find. “Mære” was released via AOP Records on February 19th, 2021.

You better buckle up, because we are in for a ride that lasts about an hour and a half. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered overkill, but, spoiler alert, HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY somehow manages to grab the wheel and turn it into one of the most memorable rides of your life. I am actually the first to lose interest when an album becomes lengthy and tedious, but take my word for it when I tell you that this is different. Allow me to elaborate.

HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY are a duo of regularly dubbed visionaries that have spent the last decade exploring an innovative kind of post-black metal. Their repertoire has intrigued many metal enthusiasts due to its unique, close to otherworldly qualities. So much so that, even if their sound is not exactly your cup of tea, it might still be inspiring to check out what direction they have decided on next. That being said, this also means that expectations have skyrocketed by now and it takes a special breed of musician not to crumble underneath that kind of pressure.

On this fifth album, it seems as though HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY takes aforementioned pressure and uses it to mold and refine their sound to an even higher standard. The opening track, “I, Pallbearer,” is a slow-burning flame at first, which ends up unleashing a storm of fiery melodious riffs and thundering blast beats, consuming everything in its path. Refuge comes in the form of delicate piano melodies that only seem to enhance the level of violent melancholia ever present throughout the entire album. The vocals are as raw and emotional as ever, intensifying the band’s core sound so the tone is set for the rest of the journey.

However, it’s “Sing for the Damage We’ve Done” that really takes us further down the rabbit hole. My favorite track off “Mære,” dynamic duo Michael “JJ” Wahntraum and Matthias Sollak are joined by Stéphane Paul a.k.a. Neige, frontman of renowned black metal project ALCEST. His distinct, ethereal vocals contrasted by the sheer aggression of the instrumentals bring on an explosion of emotions. The drums are versatile and confidently fierce with SEPTICFLESH’s extremely talented Kerim “Krimh” Lechner behind the kit.

”I’m All About The Dusk,” is an 11 minute epic with countless layers, that sweeps you away. Even though this track mostly maintains a slow pace, the sheer intensity of it hits so hard that you lose your sense of time while listening, as if you are pulled into the void. The core formula of fast-paced melody-infused riffs interweaved with contemplative breaks shines through with inspiration in subsequent “Three Empty Words,” and will continue to manifest itself throughout the entire album.

“Silver Needle // Golden Dawn” features another guest performance, this time by the faceless and nameless vocalist of Portuguese black metal archetype GAEREA. The former’s deeper growls intertwined with Wahntraum’s trademark vocal style create an intriguing dynamic. The spotlight moves back to the drums in “Time Is A Ghost,” where they interact brilliantly with the lead guitar, displaying the masterful technical skills of both musicians. Closing with a surprisingly tasteful cover of PLACEBO’s “Song To Say Goodbye” is the final bold move that puts the cherry on top.

Lyrically, HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY tells stories of creeping dread and existential melancholia, with the odd ray of hope shining through when the night gets too dark. The narrative of the many faces of loss is what really draws you in, with Wahntraum’s lamenting cries oozing desperation. This is music to lock yourself in your room to and get lost in, an outlet for any negative feelings tormenting you.

Honestly, I am not saying that a running time of 85 minutes doesn’t ask a lot of the listener, but there’s always another surprise waiting around the corner to keep you engaged. Every detail of “Mære” seems to be carefully contemplated, and HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY doesn’t hesitate to open all of the genre’s registers. Beautiful, woeful melodies and viciously violent rhythms go hand in hand on this record, displaying forms of groundbreaking creativity. It’s as if despair is turned into an art form, elevating “Mære” to the status of the band’s best work up to date.

Tracklist

  1. I, Pallbearer
  2. Sing For The Damage We’ve Done
  3. Us Against December Skies
  4. I’m All About The Dusk
  5. Three Empty Words
  6. Once Upon A Winter
  7. And Oceans Between Us
  8. Silver Needle // Golden Dawn
  9. Time Is A Ghost
  10. Song To Say Goodbye

Lineup

Matthias Solak – Multi-instrumentalist, songwriting
Michael “JJ” Wahntraum – Vocals, lyrics

Label

AOP Records

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