5 reasons why you need to check out Harbinger

If their name doesn’t give it away, Harbinger have one of the darkest, most brutal sounds that the UK metal scene has to offer. Proceed with caution…

5 reasons why you need to check out Harbinger
Mischa Pearlman

Based around the edges of London, Harbinger are one of the most inventive metal bands around, blending various sub-genres together to create their own intense and visceral version of the genre. They’re also incredibly hard-working, intent on paving their way on their own terms and decimating traditional ideas of genre as they do. Formed in 2015, the five-piece – bassist Kris Aarre, drummer Joel Scott, guitarists Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths and new vocalist Dilan Alves – have just self-released their stunning new mini-album, A Letter To Anguish, which is one of the most impressive and unholy releases of the year so far.

Just minutes after a set at 2022’s Purgatory Festival, Charlie and Dilan sat down with us to talk about how they relish in not fitting in, and why the sky is the absolute limit for the band…

1They’re not afraid to defy convention

Although influenced by a host of great metal bands such as Malevolence and Bleed From Within, Harbinger are very adamant about carving their own sound in the UK scene. So while metal lies at the roots of their what they do, they’re also not afraid to experiment. In fact, they revel in it.

“We’re all inspired and influenced by so many different types of music,” says Charlie, “whether that’s sub-genres of metal or music that isn’t metal at all, and we like to bring that to the table when we’re writing. I want to write what I enjoy. When I was younger, I was always like, ‘I want to write like this band or that band,’ but Harbinger has just always been Harbinger. It’s a very natural process to want to develop songs more from all of our influences.”

“And that means,” adds Dilan, “that for this, and for the next stuff that we do, it doesn’t all have to come from a metal background. It’ll still be metal, but with a new way of us looking at things. We don’t particularly fit into any niche, and we don’t want to.”

2The new mini-album is the first Harbinger release to feature Dilan on vocals

A Letter To Anguish is not only the first Harbinger release to feature Dilan – who was already a fan and friend of the band – on vocal duties, but it’s also the first time in any band that something he’s written has been recorded. His influence is immediately clear by the way he infuses his Portuguese heritage into the mix – he even includes some lines in Portuguese on the mini-album’s final track, Guiltless.

“It feels awesome that the mini-album is out now,” he says. “I’ve been in bands before but I’ve never released anything that with own experiences on, so it’s really cathartic to finally get it out there. I feel like I can put a lot of the stuff I wrote about in the past and just move on with it. I like writing in English but I write in Portuguese as well for other stuff. My grandmother, who passed away during COVID, was a published poet, so it was nice to almost connect with her in that way and feel like I can give something back to my family. I wrote those lines the same way she’d write, and when I showed that spoken word part to my Portuguese parents and my family, they were like, ‘Oh… So you are actually saying something, you’re not just screaming out of your mind like a lunatic!’”

3…but the band are building firmly on the foundations they’ve previously set

It might be with Dilan joining the fold that Harbinger have settled on what they see as their ultimate form, but they’re not discounting the groundwork they’d already put in. Formed in 2015 out of the ashes of other bands, the five-piece released a host of impressive EPs and singles before putting out their debut album with previous vocalist Thom Gardner. It’s a legacy the band are, justifiably, very proud of.

“We see this as more of a continuation, not starting again,” explains Charlie. “A lot of us have called it an evolution. What we’re doing now with Dilan is very much still Harbinger, but it’s the next era of where we want to take it. We decided to release a shorter album because we wanted to acknowledge the change and also experiment with new things. And lyrically, before, a lot of our songs were quite political and talking about current issues whereas now there are a lot of songs that are personal to Dilan. I feel like there are some different emotions that have been brought into these six tracks.”

“The way I write,” continues Dilan, “I like approaching current issues that are going on in the world, but I also want to have songs that are more personal to people, that they can listen to and go, ‘Fuck, I’ve been through something like this’ and help people out that way.”

4They’re a staunchly committed DIY outfit who aren’t afraid to put the work in

Although 2017’s second EP, Human Dust, came out on Basick Records, everything else Harbinger have put out has been self-released and done on their own terms. Having all been in bands before this, they’re taking this approach to learn from mistakes of the past and get everything right.

“In terms of the way we manage the band and our work ethic,” begins Charlie, “there’s stuff I’ve brought over from my old band, and other stuff I’ve realised needs to not happen with this one. But we’re not afraid to turn down shows – we’ll always find a way to make it work. We’re grinding away and trying to work our way up the ladder. But the reason we’re so DIY is that we want to work things in a certain way – I think that if we worked with the right people, it would help us, but we’ve just not had the opportunity to do that yet. We still manage ourselves and book our own shows, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into everything we do. That’s partly necessity, but it’s a choice as well.”

“And we don’t see any reason not to do that at the moment,” says Dilan. “At the minute we can handle everything ourselves, and it’s important that we get the respect of the DIY overlords in the scene!”

5New mini-album A Letter To Anguish is one of the most ferocious metal records you’ll hear all year, but it’s really just the start…

An intensely blistering (and occasionally brooding) blast of noise, A Letter To Anguish fuses melodic technical and death metal to truly devastating effect. It’s a bold and powerful statement of not just where the band are right now, but the heights to which they want to soar.

“We’re all so passionate about this,” grins Charlie, “and we know the potential that the band has, and where we can take it. We want to be touring bigger venues around the UK and Europe, and we’d love to go to the USA and Australia. We’re so invested in this, I can’t see an end to it. We’re just keep on going – the process is the goal and the goal is the process.”

“We’re aiming for world domination,” jokes Dilan, “and maybe also colonising Mars. But really, with each show we play, it shows us that people really care about what we’re doing – and as long as we have that support, we’re going to keep going. We also want to take out merchandise to the next level, and turn it into a streetwear brand almost. Because I’ve got a lot of friends who don’t really listen to our kind of music, but they love the stuff that we make, so it’d be awesome to explore that a lot more as well.”

Harbinger are playing UK Tech Fest, which takes place from June 30 – July 4 at Newark Showground

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