Sermons Of Anguish
Released: 2005, They're too kvlt for that bullshit
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
After years of slumming through the Midwest, it was good to see this long-running USBM act finally find their sound, and make good on the promise of their earlier releases.
Harkonin take the blackened foundations of Bathory and Mayhem, and blend it with the more venomous thrash of bands like Whiplash, Kreator, and Sacrifice to full effect. I listen to this, and I picture band members who actually own—and listen to—stuff like Tormentor, Necrodeath, and Coven. In other words, like a lot of Blackened Thrash bands, they clearly listen to a lot of older albums—but only the ones that you’re not cool or cult enough to own. I’m happy to report that this is gleefully poser-free, and smiling directly at you with a fork.
0The leads are great, and the vocals are fierce. Frontman Jason Barron has an excellent rasp for war, and a good deal of charisma. Unlike a lot of Black Metal frog and muppet voices, Jason seems to have a firm grasp of his genre roots, recalling Bathory and early Marduk moreso than his more Norwegian-inspired grim-throated peers. It’s probably one of the few occasions on an underground Black Metal release where I thought the vocals actually stood out.
The guitarwork is fine, particularly on tracks like “Beneath The Rubble” and “Firechrist,” and the soloing is excellent; unfortunately, the guitars are the one thing that seem buried in the mix—ironic, since this disc was produced by axeman Coyle. This band has a knack for riffs; they need to be more up front in the mix. If anything, this remains my sole point of contention on this album—this needed a thicker rhythm sound, a few more layers in the mix. A band this thrashy and mayhemic would benefit from a second guitarist.
The drumming here is dented by a similar malady—skinsman Clayton Gore is certainly proficient, but the production fails to capture the power of the beats. It’s a common flaw on indie discs, and I wouldn’t let it hinder you from picking this one up.
In this sense, the production is a little thin; but the creativity is copious, and the effect highly pronounced. This band has personality, and more charisma points than your character sheet will allow. The pacing is strictly hit and miss, but the songs themselves are ready for battle, to war against the saints. “Devil’s Rain” and “Firechrist” are standouts, though the crunch and plod of triumph makes “Destined To Conquer” this record’s strongest track. “Dogs Of Lucifer” reminded me of many of Black Metal’s better years. It’s moments like these that Harkonin can compete with anything in the scene. Opener “Into The Hailstorms Of Revelations” is well-enough composed, but could have been a little faster, more direct. Some of these songs could have been shortened, or driven even faster. If anything, that: this band needs to quicken the pace a bit, and reign in blood with quicker bursts—songs like “Devil’s Rain” and “Driven To Conquer” are the key; these tracks represent everything this band excels at.
If I were an A&R guy, I’d say this band is one EP away from being ready for “the big deal,” be it with the Devil, or with Moribund; this band could, live, hold their own against Wind Of The Black Mountains or Winter Of Apokalypse any day. The house of Harkonin is a cult waiting to happen, and I predict the next CD will be the one to know them by.