posted on 8/2011 By:
Finland’s Unkind makes their Stateside debut with their fifth record, Harhakuvat, released on Relapse. Akin to crusty d-beat acts Tragedy and Wolfbrigade, with a more than hefty dash of Neurosis, Unkind shines when channeling the first two and falls prey to post-metal meandering when following the latter. Of course, on paper, such a pairing offers a wealth of possibility, but on wax / plastic / in digital ones-and-zeros, Unkind’s formula unfortunately has a tendency to push the band into the cracks between the two styles. As such, Harhakuvat is neither as fierce nor absolutely devastating as a pure d-beat record because it spends half its time being neither as epic nor absolutely devastating as the best in sludge / post-metal.
But in the interest of full-disclosure, there’s something of a personal bias here, and I admit it: I love some d-beat pummeling and can tolerate endlessly interchangeable bands in that regard, but I’ve grown bored as hell with the post-Neurosis post-metal parade. Slow trudging tempos, allegedly “crushing” crashing chords, chiming cleans and a semi-cinematic atmosphere – all of that was brilliant a decade ago, or even a half-decade back, but nowadays, it’s played out and I’ve moved on. Regrettably, in their post / sludge moments, Unkind doesn’t manage to rise above the style’s inherent tendency to become background music, and I find myself drifting away in the bad way. None of the band’s post-metal is awful or even poorly executed – just none of it rises above any similar bands and records that came before, and thus, nothing truly transcends.
When Unkind kicks into full-on hardcore mode, they’re far better at what they do – and in their one moment of a true blending of their disparate attacks, they do manage to bring a post-metal melodic sensibility to their d-beat, such that their punk isn’t strictly Anti-Cimex / Discharge three decades later. In these punk portions, the guitars often intertwine ringing melodies above the fray, above the typical pounding drums and power-chord chunk. Such a melodic twist gives Harhakuvat’s songs a more open feel, and this is the one time in which Unkind truly makes great use of post-metal’s inherent expansive epic quality. The problem is simply that those d-beat-plus-melody moments encompass only half the record, with the other half struggles beneath its wandering Pelican-isms. “Johtajat Ja Uhrit” (which translates to “Leaders And Victims”) rides an admittedly grand clean-guitar riff into the album’s most post moment, chiming chords and that cyclical riff beneath sampled excerpts from a speech given by British politician Sir Gerald Kaufman decrying Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza.
A few years back, I ran across Denmark’s The Psyke Project, an outfit that combines hardcore and post-metal in a much more crushing fashion. Unkind shares a similar formula, but doesn’t manage to make their Neur-Isis moments as heavy as either of those bands (or as heavy as The Psyke Project). In its best moments, Harhavukat still offers some ripping d-beat and a few sludge-tempo moments that don’t stall out. Ultimately, the record splits the difference between the two styles it embraces, diluting its own power and coming up strongest on neither side.
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