16th June 2017 – Basick Records
01. The End Of Time
02. Humanity’s Limit
04. The Darkness Of June
05. I. Human Dust
06. II. Captive/Hated
Under normal circumstances, following underground bands is an exercise in patience. Because musicians are often keen on trivial little things like food and shelter, the time emerging bands have to progress is restricted by the demands of earning a few coins here and there. This then usually translates into lengthy periods of waiting for fans in between tours and releases. Usually.
Harbinger seem thoroughly determined to buck that trend, delivering their second EP Human Dust twelve months after debut Paroxysm, and less than two years after their very first shows. With the band growing in confidence virtually by the hour, it is clear that they are in no mood for hanging around. A further confirmation of this momentum is their freshly inked deal with our friends at Basick Records.
Paroxysm was largely written by guitarist Ben Sutherland before Harbinger had finalised their personnel – but with a steady stream of gigs under their collective belt together since then, the band seem to have a clearer idea about their own identity. In our Paroxysm review, we used the term ‘progressive deathcore’ to describe their sound, but already this doesn’t feel quite representative enough any more. Their songs are still a hybrid of various heavy genres, but the nexus point where they intersect has moved a little along the spectrum.
So Human Dust is a riffy stew comprising elements of death, tech, prog and groove. These ingredients have then been blended together into a cohesive and distinctive whole. The technical flourishes are subtle and have not been crow-barred in at the expense of a head-nodding groove. The riffs often carry variations, meaning each repetition is slightly different. The net effect is that Harbinger’s live shows are suitably bludgeoning, but there are layers waiting to be discovered when listening to the recorded versions with more clarity at home. This is a very neat little trick, and one of the best examples appears about thirty seconds into second track “Humanity’s Limit“, where the emphasis slightly shifts on each repetition within a very satisfying rolling chug.
We suspected when Harbinger finalised their line-up that the pairing of guitarists Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths would prove to be something special, and Human Dust confirms that. From where we sit, it also feels like a genuine partnership, without jostling for the spotlight between them, which works in everyone’s favour. Vocalist Tom Gardner also continues to develop and expand his range, with his distinctive pitched screams, outright bellowing and a light sprinkling of actual singing, too.
There’s not really a weak track amongst the six that comprise Human Dust, and the real stand-out is probably “The Darkness Of June“, with a positively stately chorus sitting comfortably with its chunky riffs and breakdowns.
Whilst there is still a slight sense that Harbinger’s very best songs are still to be written, the strength of Human Dust suggests that we won’t have to wait all that long for them. They have developed a compelling sound that conjoins high-minded, beard-strokey cleverness with primal, knuckle-dragging brutality. There’s a feeling that, were they to put their minds to it, Harbinger could comfortably venture deeper into almost any of the numerous sub genres they touch upon here. We don’t know what direction they will ultimately end up heading in, but we’re damn sure it’ll be fun finding out.