Florida nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State’ carries with it a rush of associations, beautiful people, Miami Vice, sandy beaches, Key Lime Pie, oranges and metal. Yep, it has a history of featuring some of the heaviest music around whether that be Tampa death metal or the more recent Miami doom/sludge metal scene which features the likes of Torche, Cavity, Floor, Holly Hunt and of course Bleeth. The band formed in 2014 and featured in the Miami New Times as part of a list of essential metal bands to see when visiting the city.
The band are made up of Lauren Palma (guitar/vocals), Ryan Rivas (bass/vocals) and Juan Londono (drums), and Harbinger, their latest release, is the follow-up to both 2015’s Re-Animator EP and the 2018 debut full-length Geomancer. The album according to the promo notes ‘delves into internal struggles the band had with faith in self, public institutions, moral authority, and the afterlife’; while the artwork gives the impression that it could have originated in the 1990s alongside the likes of Godflesh, Helmet and Mark of Cain, to name but a few. Perhaps a harbinger (so to speak) of the abrasive music to follow.
Imagine my surprise then when I was initially met with the low key restrained tones of Initiation. Lauren‘s soulful vocals soar through a track that sounds akin to an even slower, doomier version of Head of David, noise-rock on downers if you will. An atmospheric opener that eases you gently into the album.
Skin Of Your Teeth by comparison takes a far heavier and darker turn and interestingly brings to mind Fear Factory, there was certainly a heavy industrial mechanized groove present as well as bassist Ryan‘s Burton C Bell gruff vocal style. Listening along started me reminiscing about teenage years spent in my bedroom listening to Demanufacture. The track also betrayed a slight Godflesh influence, especially the early bleak sonic soundscapes of Like Rats. Dr Samuel Johnson may have been contemptuous of nostalgia, but Skin Of Your Teeth left me yearning for my long gone youth.
I was impressed with the sheer musical diversity on offer…
False Prophets has a far grungier feel with a vocal style reminding one of Riot Girl legends Kathleen Hanna and Kat Bjelland, while the track as a whole rumbles along at a steady pace before reaching an explosive d-beat conclusion. This leads nicely to Convenient Drowning, the shortest track at a mere 1:40 minutes long that combines hardcore influenced black metal, post-metal and noise-rock (think Jucifer) to brilliant effect. An amazing and effortless blending of styles.
Pendulum tips its hat to the murky sludge metal of San Francisco duo Black Cobra before the post-hardcore inclinations (ala Fugazi & Bluetip) of concluding track Dystopia For Dessert helps to conclude the EP. The dynamics of those aforementioned groups help to enhance the track’s heaviness as opposed to detracting from it.
The album’s accompanying promo notes state ‘The new songs mark a shift in a new direction – shorter and faster than past records’ and that is true when compared to previous output. If I had a quibble then it would be that a couple of additional tracks would have been nice, but then it’s a credit to the music that it held my attention so much that I wanted more of it.
Considering this is still a young outfit I was impressed with the sheer musical diversity on offer. They certainly take their cues from fellow Floridians Torche in terms of offering music that is creative, bold and laden with interesting ideas, and when you consider that this is only their third overall release, I consider that quite a feat.
Scribed by: Reza Mills