Time really is cruel isn’t it? Apparently it’s been five whole years (and then some) since HARM’S WAY released Posthuman, and though there is a fairly obvious culprit for the delay it really is wonderful to have the Chicago metallic hardcore bruisers back this Friday with their gargantuan new album Common Suffering. On one level it delivers largely as expected – big and crushing with muscles on muscles on muscles – but also the fact that it doesn’t always take the most obvious path is what really makes this one such a compelling entry into an already stacked discography.
To get right into it, Common Suffering doesn’t really dial up the industrial influences in the way that some might have expected it to. Those elements worked really well on Posthuman – and to an extent on a few of the records that preceded it – and while they are present on a couple of the tracks here, like the GODFLESH-indebted Terrorizer especially, HARM’S WAY have clearly turned their attention to other means of expanding their sound rather than needlessly exhausting something that they’ve already nailed and that many others have imitated since.
There are a couple of really obvious examples of this that we’ll get to in a bit, but before that, and for the avoidance of doubt, Common Suffering really is an absolute beast. HARM’S WAY have never been short on riffs before but here they’ve jacked them up almost to the level of a GOJIRA or a MESHUGGAH if either of those bands were more obviously fond of HATEBREED or 100 DEMONS, for example. Huge rhythmic grooves are stacked one after the other, each track seemingly intent on out-crushing the one that came before it as the band go blow-for-blow with the latest JUDICIARY LP for the hardest riffing hardcore record you’ll hear all year.
And then in vocalist James Pligge they have the monstrous frontman to match. He’s still got a gruff, guttural style, but that’s exactly what the music calls for, and the fact that he has focused solely on vocals for this record seems to have freed him up to land more aggressive hooks here than ever before. Most tracks have at least one or two parts to grunt or bark along to, something like “Terrorise the enemy / The enemy is you / Terrorise the enemy / Before they terrorise you” in the aforementioned Terrorizer, for example, or the supremely hard “I looked into the eyes of a demon and I saw myself” right at the end of Sadist Guilt which follows. They make Common Suffering more instantaneous in a way – more immediately memorable but never at the expense of its brutality.
But if all of the above is still largely a refinement of things that have been in the HARM’S WAY wheelhouse for a while, it’s a couple of other tracks where they surprise the most. Undertow and Wanderer round out the first and second sides of the record respectively, the former having already been released as a single and imbued with the ethereal power of guest vocalist Kristina Esfandiari aka KING WOMAN, and the latter bringing the record to a haunting close as it mines similarly atmospheric and arguably doomier territory. To be clear as well, it’s not just the ambition that deserves praise here, it’s the execution, and especially the way that each track seems so carefully placed to serve the overall journey of Common Suffering’s 35-minute runtime.
Many will of course be well aware that guitarist Bo Lueders – a member of the band since its inception – is also the co-host of the roundly adored HardLore Podcast, and of their often-emphasised credo of ‘grow don’t change’. HARM’S WAY have been a glorious embodiment of that for some time; they’ve never made the same record twice but they’ve always evolved in a way that makes sense. Common Suffering is their most expansive and sonically diverse record to date, but it also remembers to dole out the beating that fans will always expect from HARM’S WAY, if anything this time on the most imposing scale they ever have.
Common Suffering is set for release on September 29th via Metal Blade Records.
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