|Cover art by Jeff Cook / Ink Culture Studios|
I'm not going to pretend I don't have a bias towards Toronto metallic hardcore crew Harangue. I've known vocalist Michael Kopko for nearly 15 years and consider him a true friend. So I'll try to detach myself from that as much as possible to talk about their new EP By the Strength of the Mighty Atlas.
Connection or not, he spits venom every time he steps up to the mic. Not necessarily with his words but with the corrosiveness of his passionate hardcore screams. Often times he opens his heart as well. Kopko also has a tendency to perform in bands with names that suit his style. His delivery does harangue and his previous band was With Conviction. Conviction is an attribute that suits the band behind him as well.
Guitarists Danny Panzini and Dave Caporale, bassist Jules Parris and drummer Masazumi Mitsuno are as tight as Masa's snare. The easiest handle to put on them is the aforementioned metallic hardcore but for this EP there's much more dissonance, atonality and noise than previous efforts. Not to mention an uptick in production quality and overall performance ability.
I don't listen to near enough hard/math/noisecore to get a grip on the myriad sounds that been referenced in regards to the Harangue make up. But the skull-crushing intensity of Vision of Disorder, off-the-wall fret play of Coalesce and Botch, and uplifting moments a la Norma Jean can be heard. Despite none of the music writers being Helmet fans (except Kopko), some of the Page Hamilton tone and riffing sneaks its way in there as well. For what it's worth Kopko is also a fan of Earth Crisis, Cave In and Glassjaw if you're looking for more reference points. Whether it's intentional or osmotic, the local Toronto/Montreal scene rubs off on them too. People familiar with bands like Godstopper, The Great Sabatini and even Vilipend may catch a glimpse of those bands as well.
Kopko's lyrics and vocals are easy to get behind, especially when the mix of simplicity, intensity and dexterity he's singing to is so diverse yet cohesive. Heaviness meets angularity meets scorching rhythms meets spazz meets darkness. No matter the tone or speed, Harangue get the body movin'.
They take the hardcore path less trampled, weaving and careening through bruising beatdowns, guarded emotional heights, rubbernecking notes and walloping grooves. On the longer tunes Harangue pack in riffs like sardines in a can without losing the web of musical bonds that hold the tracks together as referenced on the outstanding “Empty Mouth”.
Even on shorter songs they leave an impact and on a couple are aided by the vocal talents of Pretty Mouth's Lance Marwood (“The Solidity of a Ghost”) and “NJ” Borreta of Hammerhands (“The Engine 2.0”). Both guests compliment Kopko's dry rasping outpouring naturally.
Capping off the 20 minute EP is the epic length “Familiar Face on a Stranger” clocking in at over six minutes. Panzini and Caporale are unpredictable and tangential, yet simple and meaty. Parris invades like a swamp fog coating it all with his beefy tone and Mitsuno is his usual self, all over the place but locked right in.
By the Strength of the Mighty Atlas marks a step up for the TOHC quintet. They've taken every facet to the next level capturing the live intensity that hardcore bands need to have. I've personally been getting the word out on these guys since 2012's Feeding the Wolf mini-EP but By the Strength of the Mighty Atlas is what is going to spread their punishing mentality to the audience they deserve.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]