Crust punk and d-beat have made an interesting and exciting evolution since Discharge’s revolutionary 90-second beatdowns on Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing. Norwegian bruisers Disfear kept the crusty flame alive and burning throughout the ’90s and ’00s, while in the United States, Black Breath blended d-beat with old school thrash riffs, and Trap Them lent the genre an extra shot of metalcore intensity. And while the three-decade legacy of the genre has seen a steady, primarily simple focus on speed and volume, Finland’s Unkind has taken great steps to lend crust punk some extra texture and depth on their Relapse debut, Harhakuvat.
The first thing you hear on Harhakuvat is not, in fact, sprint-paced drums nor drop-d guitar riffs. Rather, a spooky, ethereal piano opens the title track, setting a strangely eerie stage for the whirlwind of high-energy metal to come. And once it does, it’s as rowdy and fun as crust punk gets, if significantly more nuanced and layered. “Kaivannot” wastes no time in getting to the raging power chords and throaty growls, but the song’s final minute reveals something both highly surprising and delightful: a horn section. The band’s two guitarists intertwine minor key harmonies in the highly melody-focused highlight “Laumasielut,” while the gigantic, seven-minute “Johtajat ja uhrit” is the closest thing the album has to a ballad, opening with acoustic guitars and ominous synth before escalating into a surprisingly catchy and crunchy chorus.
To call that Unkind purely a crust punk band would not only be disingenuous, it’s actually only a part of an incredibly broad palate that the band stretches across sludge metal, hardcore and the occasional doom dirge. That one of the album’s most interesting tracks, “Läsnä,” is actually a melodramatic instrumental with nothing resembling a d-beat in sight, speaks volumes about the kind of exploration the band indulges in on Harhakuvat. As an exercise in raw, bruising hardcore, Harhakuvat is a blast, but the deeper into the band’s heavily layered arrangements one goes, the more interesting this mosh pit truly gets.
Stream: Unkind – Harhakuvat
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.