Review Summary: Simplicity can be a powerful weapon when used properly.
Harm's Way is a metallic hardcore band from Chicago, IL that has recently exploded in popularity. Their change from the straight laced hardcore sound they had in their earlier years to a more metal/industrial influenced sound on their 2011 LP, Isolation, was very well received, and allowed them to reach a broader fanbase. While Isolation was a good record, it was considerably heavier music written by a band somewhat inexperienced with the new influences they were incorporating into their music. As a result, at times it didn't feel very cohesive or well thought out, and when this EP was announced earlier this year I worried that it would repeat the same mistakes.
For the most part, Harm's Way have proved my assumptions wrong.
The EP opens with a slow burner, the track "Frontal Lobe". At 7 minutes in length it is the longest song on the album, and perhaps the most impressive. It builds and builds until it reaches it's climax around 5 minutes in. During this climax a crushing riff and the vocalist's repeated screams of "Save me from this hell" take the song out, and carry it into the next song, "Mind Control". This song is the first single released from the EP, and what it lacks in length it makes up for in brevity. This song is hard hitting and immediately enjoyable.
The first two tracks of this album are impressive and build up lots of momentum, but they lose it all on the title track. This song seems to be nothing but filler to me. It doesn't earn it's placement on this release, and I find myself skipping it almost every time I listen to this. Harm's Way comes back from the lull induced by the previous track with the charging "Blind Stare". This track is a juggernaut with pretty much every endearing quality you could ask for in a hardcore song. One of those, being the awesome riff at the end that doesn't feel uninspired, or dull. It simply feels like Harm's Way assaulting your ***ing ears, and having a blast while they're doing it. The last track, "Live to Loathe" is another long song, clocking in at 5 minutes and 43 seconds. This song may not be quite as good as the opening track, but it is a banger and a good way to end the EP. It is a mid-tempo song that increases in ferocity and speed until the blistering release of double kick drum madness that happens in the last minute. It is chaotic, but Harm's Way retains control and restraint that makes it come off as very well executed and clean.
While vocalist James Pliggue doesn't leave his comfort zone in terms of range (mostly low screams), his lyrics are interesting introspections into his thought processes, and his views on the current state of the world. The music and his vocal delivery are very angry, but his lyrics aren't necessarily angry. The emotions he expresses the most with his lyrics are anguish, and loneliness. The anger I see in his lyrics seems like a byproduct of the emotions I just mentioned, which is different from a lot of bands in this genre.
Blinded is heavy, and ***ing pissed. They pull off mixing metallic hardcore with an industrial sound that I haven't heard done nearly this well before. Harm's Way takes advantage of their strengths, and they have upped the level of technicality and variation on this record, but haven't forgotten that sometimes simplicity can be extremely effective.