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Acoustic reimaginations of black metal tracks most of the time probably won't go well. There are, however, exceptions to that. The black-metal female-fronted project of Myrkur is an example of that. Mausoleum is by far a better album than the heavy version of these songs were on her debut LP, and has you wondering why she didn't do acoustic folk instead.
To be honest, the sole LP release M was not very good. It had its defining moments, but for the most part was very bland. It's likely the lack of experience; it improved from the EP, but didn't quite get where it needed to be. The music just felt wrong and lacking emotion. The songs that were performed in Mausoleum have a new darkness too them, ultimately sounding much more evil and gory than M was. These acoustic songs are more metal than the actual black metal songs.
The darkness this album generates roots from the cavernous piano that leads most of the tracks. You simply feel oppressed and alone listening to 'Byssan Lull' with the way Myrkur's vocals sing high and innocently above the low bass notes the piano plays that echo through your body. The way the choir echoes throughout the song puts you in an empty room of darkness, a light flashing on you and nowhere to go.
That's the aesthetic for a the first half of the album. 'Den Lille Piges Død' introduces acoustic guitar, which plays quickly and panicked with the piano, which sounds equally as frantic, especially at the high end. 'Frosne Vind' is the point of the album where you really start questioning why Myrkur didn't adopt an acoustic Scandinavian folk project. This song screams Scandinavia. 'Onde Børn' continues, introducing more riveting instrumental movements (the chord progressions are phenomenal).
Did Myrkur make a wrong decision? Her music translates a lot better into an acoustic setting than in black metal. The only error on the record is the last song, where the clapping did not sound great with the acoustics of the hall she recorded in. I'd like to see Myrkur do a folk album somewhere down the road. Black metal doesn't seem to be amazing from her end yet, anyway. Her voice is much better executed in this setting. Let's see what happens.
Favorite Tracks: Frosne Vind, Onde Børn, Byssan Lull
Least Favorite Track: Dybt I Skoven
Most people will see black metal as something satanic or not of this world. This is only partially true of Harakiri From The Sky. They don't dabble with the sounds of Hell; rather, they choose to explore the mind and its emotions instead. III: Trauma is their newest release, and it goes further and bites harder than any of its predecessors.
Going into Trauma, you expect something dark and for something nasty to develop within your throat as it progresses. That's what black metal would typically do to you. But no, Harakiri For The Sky takes a different direction. There's something pure in their music; it's not the heaviness that speaks for it. Rather, the melodies seem to do that for them. III: Trauma is not an album meant to be jammed to (though, that is very much a thing you can do). It's an album that wants your understanding and focus - and trust me, you'll need it.
All expectations are lost straight from the start, replacing them with a morbid curiosity instead. The eleven-minute epic 'Calling The Rain' begins the sweltering album, piano chords and reverberating guitar being this albums entrance. Instead of dropping those elements in favor of a low-tuned chugging, powerchords kick in in order to expand upon the ideas developing from the start. The lead guitar soars above the thriving instrumental as if to search for something before tortured vocals enter the scene, the angered and lost disposition of the voice contrasting the hopeful instrumental. This song itself is a journey; by its end it feels like you've been hit by enough thought to have listened to an entire album already. It goes through cycles, heavy ones full of rage and others begging for hope. The vocals and instrumental are constantly fighting each other in some sort of dark, graceful dance that begs for an answer. It's gentle conclusion finds itself experiencing an aftermath, one final blast taking the song to its end.
After that's over, it's time for the second song. Every track on this record is a lengthy one, the shortest clocking in at eight and a half minutes ('The Traces We Leave'). Often times, bands who take these long roads lose themselves in complex turns and systems that ultimately makes the song lose its light. Everything on this record feels justified in its length, though. Each song is its own story, its own exploration of a concept that delves within your own psyche to bring out a very warming closeness. There are big riffs to give the listener moments to jam - see 'This Life As A Dagger' especially - but this album is much more than that.
This album feels almost like an alternative rock record in terms of its understanding of heaviness and structure. Take 'Funeral Dreams' as an example, though each song exhibits it. It isn't driven by a need for galloping riffs to make itself sound big; each song is cavernous with a clear respect to spaciousness. Every element of the song comes together to create massive atmosphere that builds and builds into one collective body. The riffs don't even feel as down-your-throat due to low tuning. The mixing compliments the high-end more so than the low-end (which also isn't tuned down to the depths of Hell). This album channels melody over thrill, and emotion over just rage. The instrumentals help inspire your mind as to what you should be feeling - 'Thanatos' begins with an ethereal intro that makes you feel like you're drowning, while the epic percussion and powerful feeling of 'Dry The River' gives you hope.
Harakiri From The Sky seems to understand what metal should be about. III: Trauma is not your every day black metal album. It is post-metal at its finest. It explores surreal and deep parts of the human emotions, and seeks to find closure within them through the music. It's a long record but a revealing one. It's an essential for any metal fan, and one that cannot be skipped for any fan of music. It's a brilliant emotional journey that has you think and feel - there's nothing more important that music can do for you.
Favorite Tracks: Calling The Rain, Funeral Dreams, Dry The River
Least Favorite Track: The Traces We Leave
Rating: 88 / 100