Review: “Compelled To Suffer” by Harbinger

London based Harbinger are a band we’ve watch rise to a force to be reckoned with over the past few years. From seeing them at a dive bar supporting Loathe in front of 50 or so people in 2017 to playing in front of a packed main stage at UK Tech-Fest that summer, they’ve gone on to tour with A Night In Texas, opened the Sounds of Carnage Tour across Europe with Rings of Saturn and Nekrogoblikon and even recorded an Avenged Sevenfold cover for Metal Hammer Magazine. It’s been a journey that has seen frontman Thom Gardner, bassist Kris Aarre, drummer Joel Scott and guitarists Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths take Harbinger from strength to strength. Now it’s time for the independently released full length “Compelled To Suffer” to make it’s appearance.

A programmed drum loops and dark wave synth pattern bring in opening track “The Awakening” with a atmospheric that creates an ice cold moment before the riffs kick on full throttle accompanied by a whirlwind of kit work. There’s an early 2000’s Metalcore influence on the guitar tone with hints at the likes of As Lay Dying but Harbinger elevate it to a new level (no Pantera pun intended). The surprise is an almost but Deathcore growl from Gardner that perhaps shows a greater vocal range than heard on previous efforts. Keeping the tempo and energy high “Healer/Deceiver” sees Garner change the pitch and tone of his voice in delivery on numerous occasions, giving the vocals a lot more dimension and on occasion sounding like the band has more than one vocalist at the helm. Schizophrenic lead work litters the track with a Power Trip inspired Crossover Thrash whammy bar solo but it’s the full on Deathcore closing breakdown that you need a tow truck for. Thundering in with bark and bite “Celestial Being” Gardner smashes everything in his path lyrically over some serious groove Metal riffs. The atmospheric lead guitars add touches of eerie haunt to the bludgeoning rhythm patterns while Joel Scott delivers a fine kit performance. Album title track “Compelled to Suffer” is a more driven affair with a few choice squeals and some more technical guitar work in a blood and thunder atmosphere. Garnder’s calling out of someone who could have been something better but instead suffers from the consequences of their own lifestyle choices while asking why me? When it should be obvious.

A heavier vocal growl gets “The Dance of Species” going with some powerhouse riffage as Harbinger take the earlier material and turn everything up to 10 for a Melodic Death Metal cut that shows some of the heavier influences from their earlier recordings. Lyrically deeper that the darkest ocean depths, it’s a song about how humanity is destroying the Earth and how we need to do something about it before it’s too late. Those sentiments remain long after the headbanging has finished and demonstrate that there is more to Harbinger than meets the eye. Chugging in from the left “Descendants” has a couple of choice tempo shifts that seamlessly increase the pace and energy as the and switch up the gears from groove Metal up to a modern take on classic Thrash and then back again after a solo. Crushing what has the promise of an epic atmospheric start with some bludgeoning riffs and caustic vocals “The Fear of Sorrow” is another one of the heavier cuts. Piling breakdown on top of breakdown and then highlighting it all with some classic lead parts, it’s one which talks about moving on after loss and avoiding ending up trapped in a vicious cycle of guilt and regret. It’s a powerful sentiment that remains long after the headbanging has stopped. Not wasting any time on an elongated introduction “Desperation Dear” jumps straight in with some Technical Metal riffage and builds through to a huge epics solo of jaw dropping proportions. The lead flourishes continue over the rhythmic gymnastics and give everything a fine balance. Battling Demons never sounded this good.

Moving in like a Stampede across the the dry grassland and kicking up a dust storm “Covetous Hearts” punches hard with Joel Scott putting on a punishingly good kit display. A couple of off kilter lead guitar parts add a sense of eerie menace to the mid-section before another epic technical solo sets things a flame. Bringing a Groove Metal bounce “The Cleansing” steps up into Deathcore territory and back down at various points with Gardner pushing his vocal range to the maximum to get his point across with some serious brutality while the guitars follow suit. The message and deeper meaning couldn’t be much clearer. Strictly Death Metal “Death Pending” is one about the mortality of the human race. Another wordy message heavy cut, it’s not one for the faint hearted, designed to get you thinking after the pit has finished. The melodic chorus remains rich in unclean vocals with a pitch change in Garner’s roar making all the difference. Experimenting with some Latin styled guitar work for a pallette cleansing start “The Red Flower” soon kicks in full throttle. That introduction styling returns mid way through the tune accompanied by an open drum fill to give it plenty of space before building into another epic technical solo. Harbinger have mastered the song writing craft and harnessed the ability to create a dark and brooding atmosphere. Which brings us to closing instrumental “Entropy”, a Melodic dual guitar build that simply wouldn’t fit anywhere else on the album but ends it with a piece of epic grandeur that you won’t want to miss for the World [8.5/10]

Track listing

  1. “The Awakening”
  2. “Healer/Deceiver”
  3. “Celestial Being”
  4. “Compelled to Suffer”
  5. “The Dance of Species”
  6. “Descendants”
  7. “The Fear of Sorrow”
  8. “Desperation Dear”
  9. “Covetous Hearts”
  10. “The Cleansing”
  11. “Death Pending”
  12. “The Red Flower”
  13. “Entropy”

“Compelled To Suffer” by Harbinger is out on 17th May and available for pre-order over at bandcamp. Physical copies are available here.

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