Harms Way – Common Suffering
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 29/09/2023
Running Time: 35:00
Review by Rory Bentley
The difference between Harms Way and your common garden variety Hardcore band is best summed up by comparing a boxer to a UFC Fighter. In both cases when thrown into the ring or octagon with them you’re in for the beating of your life courtesy of a supremely skilled fighter. Now although the boxer has multiple ways of dispatching you, they’re all going to revolve around punching, be it teasing you with jabs, crushing your ribs with a haymaker or knocking your teeth into row Z with a thundering uppercut. The UFC fighter on the other hand may opt to do the same as the boxer, or they may want to bust your nose with a flying knee strike, or hobble you with a nasty heel hook, or maybe just joke you out with a front face-lock amongst a plethora of diverse ways to inflict extreme punishment. Harms Way are the UFC Fighter in this analogy. They have many tools in their arsenal, but the one guarantee is that they are going to hurt you. A lot.
After an unbearably long gap between releases since 2018’s superb “Posthuman”, during which time lead singer and tattooed meat mountain James Pligge became an internet meme for the ages, we arrive at the morosely-titled “Common Suffering”, ready to find out what new and horrifying punishments the band have concocted for our fragile little ears. Strap in my friends, this is going to be a heavy one!
The obvious impressive factor on “Posthuman” aside from the neck-snapping level of chug, was the deft merging of Industrial elopements with the band’s agonisingly human Hardcore sound, as man and machine collided in a way that stripped away the Bladerunner theatrics of the likes of Fear Factory and just focused on being fucking horrible. Thankfully this latest effort certainly carries the harsh lessons of its predecessor forward, particularly in cuts like the juddering, stomping horror of ‘Cyanide’, but there are some new additions to the band’s crushing arsenal. ‘Silent Wolf’ kicks things off with an almost rubbery sound to the slapping bottom guitar strings as well as a devastating barrage of mechanical triplets straight from the Meshuggah playbook. The bass on here buzzes like a nest of ‘roided-up hornets and the beatdown is frankly disgusting. Any hopes of the band opting for a lighter approach are immediately dashed from the second you hit play, this is how you open a record.
In addition to incorporating a dash of Djent and Tech Metal there is a huge Noise-Rock element to the album’s sound. After putting their foot on the gas for ‘Denial’s’ first half, the band then provides a deeply unpleasant wall of noise that would sound perfect on a Big Black album. This is taken a step further on the nightmarish ‘Hollow City’, which draws from the hulking intensity of Godflesh at their dirtiest while churning out unsettling riffs that sound like a Pteranodon that’s just caught fire. The Albini/Broadrick worship reaches its sludgy, harrowing conclusion on the appropriately-titled ‘Terrorizer’ which builds layer after layer of samples leading up to a colossal tempo-drop that pounds your puny bones to dust. Absolutely vile.
In keeping with the band’s eclectic approach to brutality, there are even some melodic moments sprinkled throughout which add variety if not any sort of respite from the tireless onslaught of pain being meted out. King Woman’s Kristina Esfandiari lends her serpentine croon to the brooding ‘Undertow’, while closing track ‘Wanderer’ features some eerie Alice In Chains style harmonies that send chills and pangs of anxiety down the spine. The song also has the existential mesmeric drone of latter day Neurosis, giving it a gravitas that few, if any Hardcore bands are capable of matching. These cleaner elements serve not as a way of garnering crossover appeal, but as another way to draw out feelings of dread and tension before the inevitable punch to the face comes back tenfold.
Despite all these elements and the band’s clearly meticulous attention to detail, “Common Suffering” is still very much a Hardcore record on a foundational level. With all its frankly stunning genre alchemy, it is still a record you can throw on and throw down to if you’re not in the frame of mind to pore over its intricacies, which in my book makes it even more impressive than a full departure from the band’s core sound. Once again Harms Way prove to be the kings of sophisticated violence.
01. Silent Wolf
03. Hollow Cry
06. Heaven’s Call
09. Sadist Guilt
James Pligge – lead vocals
Christopher Mills – drums
Nick Gauthier – guitars
Bo Lueders – guitars
Casey Soyk – bass
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.