Harbinger – ‘Compelled To Suffer’

By Dave Stewart

The definition of a harbinger is anything that foreshadows a future event. An omen or a sign of things to come, such as frost signalling winter or the presence of a robin showing the approach of spring. Harbinger is also the name of a technical metal band from London, and they’re foreshadowing their own future. Their new self released record ‘Compelled To Suffer’ is the first glimpse at that future, and it’s crammed full of chaos, darkness and unbridled power.

The band aren’t strangers to the technical metal scene, with their previous releases ‘Paroxysm’ and ‘Human Dust’ demonstrating their grasp on their musical ability. The latter was an especially well received EP, but ‘Compelled To Suffer’ is a different animal entirely. The brutality and groove is still present, but it’s more crisp and clear than ever before. Opening track and first single ‘The Awakening’ immediately puts this on display, gently caressing your eardrums with delicate pianos before thrusting crushing riffs and fierce lead guitar work into them. The musicianship is indisputable, the weight is immeasurable, and this is track number one – a mere taste of what’s to come.

‘Healer/Deceiver’ keeps the pendulum swinging, picking up speed with every furious solo and addictive groove-laden chug. Title track ‘Compelled To Suffer’ is at a rapid pace too, only slowing down to unleash the gnashing teeth of the breakdowns. Not everything is fast, though – they occasionally slow the pace and marry the sheer brutality with haunting, soul-stirring tones. ‘Descendants’ is a prime example of that, utilising chords and progressions that have been snatched straight from the riff catalogue of Satan himself.

For every ounce of devastation and havoc on show, there is an equal measure of melody to counterbalance it. ‘The Red Flower’ boasts some of the most tasteful guitar work on the record amidst all the chaos surrounding it, both in the form of solos and uncharacteristically softer sections. ‘Death Pending’ sounds as though it could’ve been taken straight from Necrophagist’s book of tricks, effortlessly blurring the lines of heaviness and harmony together. Whether you’re a fan of the darkest death metal or the chunkiest metalcore, there will be something here that you’ll dig. A solid, seriously impressive debut album.

This record has the potential to be their breakthrough to bigger things. The musicianship is stunning, with each member of the band delivering a precise and punishing performance. Above that, though, it’s the structuring and general song writing that elevates this record to another plane entirely. The technical riffs and blistering leads are certain to make guitar nuts look on in awe. The breakdowns are heavy enough to tantalise the taste buds of any mosher in earshot. Harbinger have taken those things and carefully weaved them together to create a detailed and majestic tapestry. Imagine if Thy Art Is Murder, Pantera and Malevolence shared a boozy sacrificial ritual, and you’ll be left with a pretty accurate picture of how this sounds. ‘Compelled To Suffer’ is technical, brutal metal wizardry at its very best. If you aren’t already aware of Harbinger, now is the perfect time to acquaint yourself.

DAVE STEWART

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