Review: “A Letter To Anguish” by Harbinger

Three years after their debut album “Compelled To Suffer” saw them share stages across Europe with Rings Of Saturn, Nekrogoblikon and Decapitated, London based Technical Groove Death Metallers Harbinger have returned with a six track mini album titled “A Letter To Anguish“. The exit of vocalist Tom Gardener during a period where the band should have been in celebratory mood following the arrival of that record came as something of a shock, but his claim to have fallen out of love with the bands sound was proven by his new project Pulse who are flavoured Nu-Metalcore. Those were always going to be big boots to fill and for a while Harbinger stood strong with Jack Kinsey (ex-Monasteries, Mardrommar) front and centre, however he was only ever cast to play the role of a cameo in the bands career and with this new record they welcome Dilan Alves formerly of Nexilva.

Kicking up dust from the very start “Prayer Of Deliverance” serves as an introduction to Alves, a man who impresses with his unclean vocal range and leaves a lasting impression in scorch marks upon your ear drums. A mid cut slow down into a more classically styled Melodic Death Metal bridge allows for a tasteful clean vocal passage and a sumptuous solo before the band return to their trademark powerhouse crushing moves and the result is jaw dropping. “Hate File” then brings the stomp with Joel Scott’s kit work impressing as it underpins some technical staccato riffage and unpredictable rhythmic poundings before a final flourish you can’t help but want to be extended. Alves’ vocals maybe for the most part classic unclean brutality but there is emotive quality to the lyrical flow that gives the band another dimension here before “Guile” introduces a higher tempo and some self titled era Chimaira esq riffs of pure Groove. A stone cold winner it’s an instant circle pit starter with violent undertones that has some really interesting nuances. Chilling buried orchestration atmospherics and short bursts of gang chants before Alves unleashes a couple of bowl clenching Death Metal roars make for something that should be a mainstay of their live set for the next while. The onslaught of riffs keeps coming with wave after tidal wave of genre splitting technique, moments synonymous with Deathcore, Death Metal and even Metallic Hardcore all interwoven into the fabric of the material of this new era of the band, Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths as happy to throw down a breakdown as rip out a solo in slick style.

Unnerving moments of buried electronics give “Antagonist” an extra cutting edge without overdoing it, the occasional odd time signature in a demonstration of technical instrumental prowess making it another sure fire classic from a band at the height of their powers. Then the title track “A Letter To Anguish” comes in swinging, offering a fresh dynamic of epic majesty with soaring clean vocal moments and leads on served backbone of powerhouse rhythms exposing a vulnerability hitherto unheard to create something anthemic. The key here is the balance, they’ve avoided repeating themselves by sticking to what has got them this far but they haven’t pushed things too far as to alienate any of their fans. Unlike so many, they haven’t said “no” to a clean vocal or a melodic drop but equally they haven’t incorporated that into every track either, simply using those additional elements to heighten the senses and bolster what has made them an attractive proposition on the first place and taken them this far rather than making it all about the new elements. The dark thoughts of Alves continue to be exposed in the cathartic “Guiltless“, a cut that can only be described as a classic piece of Death Metal with a dramatic quality and vocal layering used to stunning effect. A fearless and free flowing return, this record is one that packs more into 25 minutes than some manage in an hour with enthralling musicianship and captivating style and grace. A new era of darkness has begun… [9/10]

Track Listing

  1. Prayer Of Deliverance
  2. Hate File
  3. Guile
  4. Antagonist
  5. A Letter To Anguish
  6. Guiltless

A Letter To Anguish” by Harbinger is out now

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