For nearly two decades, Harm’s Way has evolved from whispered underground favourites to favourite sons with an arsenal of songs that helped shape heavy music’s trajectory – creating a roadmap for legions interested in “reinventing” themselves. Harm’s Way has never stayed complacent and constantly morphed shape- absorbing and reapplying influences in new and creative ways to create some of the most well-executed songs in hardcore punk and metal. And yet, considering the changeling that they and their previous efforts are, “Common Suffering” is easily the most musically diverse undertaking in their catalogue. The album beams with incredibly memorable riffs, breakdowns, and impeccable songwriting with subtle melody and point/counter-point which kicks off loud and clear on album opener “Silent Wolf”; released today.
“‘Silent Wolf’ was birthed out of observing a sense of persistent distrust in governing bodies and systems of power in our current cultural climate,” tells vocalist James Pligge. “It speaks on the faith, or lack of faith, many have in these systems and an overall feeling of inertia and paranoia with status quo operations… leading many to the question: ‘what is really informing our reality?”
Despite Harm’s Way’s reputation for unrelenting brutality, “Common Suffering” surprises at several turns with quieter moments of well thought out songwriting that emphasize light and shade. It’s their understanding of how to effectively orchestrate these dynamics that makes an already ironclad record feel infinitely more merciless. This is Harm’s Way at the top of their game – the ambitious sound of a band traversing new ideas.
“We really tried not to settle on parts,” recalls guitarist Nick Gauthier. “Sometimes a direction that we could have taken in a song felt too obvious… We would just troubleshoot that until we felt creatively satisfied with the direction we were taking.”
The key to the success may be a shift to recording at Studio 4 in Pennsylvania with producer Will Yip (Turnstile, Code Orange). Going into the recording, the goal was to improve some of the band’s processes, examine vocal cadences and experiment during production to gain the best idea from each track. The first change dealt with refocusing members on their specific wheelhouses. While Pligge had previously assisted with riffs, on this effort, his main objective was to ensure the perfect vocal attack- leaning into Yip for advice and letting the remainder of the band take the wheel with their respective parts. The result is each player pushing to the far reaches and creating material that has previously never been colonized by any band, or hardcore writ large, before.
The title “Common Suffering” is a clear nod to the collective experiences of the past three years of chaos, misanthropy, paranoia, disorder, confusion and anxiety, with the band exploring themes ranging from personal struggles with mental health, relationships, political upheaval, corruption, and political power. Pligge digs deep into these subjects such as the track “Cyanide”, which examines the expansion of media outlets, the correlative rise of disinformation, and the pervasive impact it has on people’s lives and systems of power. Additional tracks include “Devour”, which examines the impact of toxic people in one’s life, the highly personal “Hollow Cry”, where Pligge explores his own humanity and relationships, and the somewhat improbable “Undertow,” which features the haunting vocals or Kristina Esfandiari – AKA King Woman – who adds a whole new dimension to the record and helps exhibit the band’s willingness to push into uncharted territory.
“Common Suffering” sees its release September 29 across all digital streaming platforms, vinyl and CD formats via Metal Blade Records. See below for variant options.
|1. Silent Wolf
3. Hollow Cry
6. Heaven’s Call
9. Sadist Guilt
Photo By Vanessa Valadez