Harvey Milk : A Small Turn of Human Kindness

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Two years ago, Harvey Milk released the critically lauded, sophomore ‘comeback’ album, Life…the Best Game in Town. What’s not to like about a sludge metal band from Athens named after the first openly gay city supervisor in San Francisco? Of course, timing is everything. That same year, the biopic Milk was released, helping many more people realize that Harvey Milk wasn’t just the name of a dude in the band, a la Pink Floyd. We here at Treble, and critics everywhere, loved the album, but apparently there was a group of people who didn’t feel the same.

Words such as ‘melody,’ ‘accessibility,’ ‘laid-back’ and ‘catchier’ appeared in our own review of the album. We didn’t see that as a bad thing, but one disappointed fan did and wrote the band a letter. After all, we all know that cranks writing letters are the most influential people on the planet, right? Well, if you’re to believe the reports, Creston Spiers, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, was already of the mind that the album wasn’t their best, and took the letter as a call to arms. Harvey Milk would once again eschew accessibility for more challenging musical territory, and A Small Turn of Human Kindness is the surprising result.

With Kindness, Harvey Milk puts the ‘oo’ in doom. In an age where certain snooty indie auteurs are declaring the album as a dead format, (sorry Sufjan, you pissed me off with that one) Harvey Milk prove the contrary in one fell swoop. A Small Turn of Human Kindness is an album in every sense of the word. Songs flow together so seamlessly that one might have a hard time figuring out where one ends and one begins. As such, the piece as a whole is a stunning symphony of depression, the darkest rock opera ever released.

From the outset, starting with the untitled instrumental, the album is the distilled essence of Harvey Milk. It is made up of plodding, trudging heavy bass notes that can only be described as Precambrian. As songs progress, never really picking up the pace so much as simply adding small touches here and there, the vocals stretch out, sung like a tortured soul in the darkest corners of Purgatory, weaving a tale of despair. Lyrically, the album never provides any kind of respite, but musically, the album’s closer, “I Did Not Call Out,” supplies a form of release. The guitars, wailing with ’70s classic rock abandon, juxtapose nicely with the sludgy backdrop, creating one of the most pleasurably schizophrenic moments in modern metal. It’s a song that has to be heard to be believed, and will most likely be a crowd favorite at live shows.

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