Harm’s Way – Posthuman


Artist

Album

Posthuman

Label

Metal Blade Records

Year

2018

For Fans Of

Code Orange, Vein, Knocked Loose.

Summary

A requiem for the Anthropocene.

Rating

85 / 100

With an album title that fosters imagery of progression, the critical evaluation of human nature, and literally moving ‘to a state beyond human,’ it’s easy to see from the outset why ‘Posthuman’ is the definitive release from hardcore bruisers, Harm’s Way. After humble beginnings as an almost-joke power-violence project, with a love for Infest tributes and straight-edge, the Chicago outfit has spent over a decade amassing a reputation for their incendiary live-shows and cultivating one of the most consistent and destructive back catalogues in heavy music. Now, with the release of their highly-anticipated fourth album, Harm’s Way are more than ready to enter the next chapter of their musical career.

As the title suggests, ‘Posthuman’ represents a multi-faceted evolution for Harm’s Way. It’s their debut record with revered industry heavyweights, Metal Blade Records, a label which has the potential to expose Harm’s Way’s patented blend of groove-laden, industrial-tinged metallic hardcore to the unassuming long-haired masses. The group enlisted the help of go-to producer/engineer Will Putney (Every Time I Die, Thy Art Is Murder, Counterparts) to chart the deep sonic exploration on ‘Posthuman,’ after years spent collaborating with Weekend Nachos member Andy Nelson (Lord Mantis, Like Rats) on previous releases like 2013’s ‘Blinded’ EP and the band’s last full-length album for Deathwish Inc., 2015’s formidable ‘Rust’. ‘Posthuman’ also sees the injection of some new blood to the mix, with guitarist Nick Gauthier lending his talents to the songwriting process, and bassist Casey Soyk incorporating additional programming elements to the band’s already extensive industrial and electronic palette.

Along with their remaining core (drummer Christopher Mills, guitarist Bo Lueders, and the physically intimidating, B.J. Blazkowicz-looking vocalist James Pligge), Harm’s Way approach the bleak narrative of ‘Posthuman’ with vigour, refinement and a singular, crushing intensity.

To get an idea of exactly what Harm’s Way are looking to say on ‘Posthuman,’ the best points of reference can be found in the album’s pre-release singles. Album opener ‘Human Carry Capacity’ reads like an obituary for the human species; a dire anthem for the self-indulgent arrogance of the Anthropocene age. The band’s instrumentals are utterly relentless here, with a barrage of cascading drums courtesy of Mills, alongside the bludgeoning, droning chugs of Lueders and Gauthier. Frontman Pligge’s bark is suitably tough as nails this time around too, as he envisions a human society smothered in heat and despair, fighting for survival in the choking hell-scape of their own making: “Watch us drown/Watch the sun, melt the ground/Cries of pain/In the end, we’re to blame.

Acting as a counterpoint to the aforementioned onslaught of aggression, album mid-point ‘Call My Name’ is more subdued and personal in the beginning, with ambient, industrial textures pitched against guitar ring-outs and sliding riffs. However, once things ramp up, Harm’s Way still fire on all cylinders, with churning guitars, discordant riff breaks and Pligge’s vocals awash in atmospheric echoes and reverb. And when the track zeroes in on the finale, the slam section hits like a fucking uppercut!

It’s this duality between dead-straight heavy hardcore and the slower, sludgier moments, which makes ‘Posthuman’ such an enthralling listen. The record moves at a brisk tempo, sweeping up ten tracks in 34 minutes. And even though Harm’s Way doesn’t deviate too drastically from their ‘metallic hardcore with industrial bits’ template, each head-banging groove and swinging anvil breakdown is placed exactly where it needs to be. It’s a record that emphasises momentum and weight over verbosity, with the end result being concise, angry and surprisingly catchy. ‘Sink’ pairs weaving rhythms with a slow-mo, rolling beat-down, alongside little nods to old-school death metal in the composition. ‘Become A Machine’ echoes the band’s ‘Isolation’-era, with a kinetic intro, fast-paced verses and staccato guitar bursts, complete with curious, techno-humanist lyrics.

Elsewhere on the album, Harm’s Way keep the listener guessing with brief moments of outsider influence. Album standout ‘Temptation’ is a slow, brooding effort, with an emphasis on empty space and haunting ambience, to create a dirge worthy of a Converge or Neurosis record. Pligge’s simple vocal refrain is hypnotizing, lulling the listener into a false sense of security, before the track erupts into a cacophonous, chugging riff and an avalanche of drums, ending abruptly like a boot stomp on the back of your neck a la American History X. ‘Dissect Me’ sports some stellar, bending riffs of the Gojira school of thought, while industrial interlude ‘The Gift’ allows Soyk’s contributions to shine through, with a heavy Godflesh vibe that feels like someone dropkicked a 56K modem into a black hole.

Album closer ‘Dead Space’ is a fitting send-off for a record with a mostly bleak and uncompromising attitude. With a slow build-up, Pligge’s vocals rub against lurching heavy riffs, dismissing the notion that we can be the instrument of our own salvation — evidently, our prayers, gods and dreams won’t save us in the end. The track features a brief glimmer of hope towards the end, with a subtle, melodic undercurrent, all before being swallowed whole by the murky depths of cosmic pessimism, as Pligge declares “I am nothing” over a huge, misanthropic breakdown.

Conclusion

On the song ‘Last Man,’ Harm’s Way include a vocal sample towards the track’s end which paints a vivid picture of the ‘Posthuman’ narrative. Featuring closing narration from an episode of The Twilight Zone television series entitled ‘Time Enough at Last’ (1959), the sample itself is hard to parse, being somewhat buried in the mix, but the below transcript provides the main thesis:

The best-laid plans of mice and men … now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself…

In essence, that’s what ‘Posthuman’ is about: human desire as digital rubble; a sonic requiem for the human species, delivered with hate, anger, vitriol and surgically-precise grooves. For their fans, both old and new, ‘Posthuman’ will represent Harm’s Way at their destructive best, and will be an easy contender for one of the best heavy music releases of 2018.

Tracklisting

  1. Human Carrying Capacity
  2. Last Man
  3. Sink
  4. Temptation
  5. Become a Machine
  6. Call My Name
  7. Unreality
  8. Dissect Me
  9. The Gift
  10. Dead Space

‘Posthuman’ is available from February 9th through Metal Blade Records. To stream and purchase copies of the record, go through the jump here.

2 Responses to “Harm’s Way – Posthuman”

    • Owen Morawitz Owen Morawitz

      It’s a massive record, and I think it gets better with each subsequent listen. Definitely a front runner for ‘Best Gym Record of 2018’ haha.

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