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.