Harms Way // Common Suffering // Album Review


Chicago Illinois’ own Harms Way has returned!

The band originally began as a side project & quickly became something more serious. Starting with a more straight-up hardcore/power violence sound the band soon evolved with the release of their first album 2008’s “Reality Approaches”.

Mixing the riff style of death metal with hardcore showed they were crafting their own sound. Even more so on their next E.P. release “No Gods, No Masters” they were organically evolving.

But it wasn’t until the release of the now modern classic “Isolation” in 2011 that the band became the titan they are now. Seen as the best album of the year & one of the heaviest within the hardcore scene, Harm’s Way were now leaders of the scene.

Over the releases of the band’s next efforts, “Blinded” (A must listen to E.P I might add), “Rust” & the group’s first release on Metal Blade, 2018’s “Posthuman” have now cemented the band in their own sonic landscape. “Posthuman” was the grandest album to date. A total assault on the senses but also allowed times of reflection & beautiful experimentation.

Now their follow up “Common Suffering” sees the band take an even larger step in firmly planting their own flag in the ground with what I can only say is the best metal album of the year.

“Silent Wolf” opens the record. Like a swarm of insects crawling in your brain the track slowly opens with eerie samples before the band erupts. A bouncy, groovy riff drives the track. Something that HW are fantastic at is giving you a riff you want to hear over & over. And I’m so happy they rode it long enough that it really builds the track.

A superb chorus section opens & the vocal play between singer James Pligge & guitarist Bo Lueders is so dynamic. James’ low raspy vocal & Bo’s high scream work so well as contrasting tones.

As the track ends in perfect HW fashion they give you one of many amazing, chaotic & rhythmic breakdowns in its closing moments. A perfect opener. Showing you something familiar but also teasing you with new elements.

Hot on its toes “Denial” is a fast paced monster. An interesting leading riff but again with tons of groove carries the track.

Quickly you can hear by the second track just how much effort Pligge has put into his vocal performance. I’m a longtime HW fan so James’ vocals have always been one of my favourites in the hardcore genre but here’s pronunciation, cadence & lyrical content is the best he’s ever captured on a record.

The production on this track & the whole album is a huge step up. HW have always had fantastic layering on their albums but with the help of recording at Studio 4 in Pennsylvania with producer Will Yip (Turnstile, Code Orange) the band are sounding like the best version of themselves.

The band’s evolution over the years of added sonic textures has been a phenomenal addition to the band’s sound. But what they have been able to do while evolving is blend it perfectly into their heavy guitar tone, thumping drums & bass as another brilliant texture.

One of the album’s singles “Devour” perfectly incompasses HW’s sound. Fast paced, pissed off, full of great guitar riffs & the most important a hook.

Feeling like the bastard child of “Roots” & “Like Rats” this track has it all. I’ve always felt HW have been able to write metal with a pop sensibility, they know what the listener wants & they are able to grab & keep your attention the whole way through. The whole thing is full of great moments.

As the track builds to its peak drummer Christopher Mills whos always been able to use fills & great cymbals moments to really give the track what it needs really flourishes on this song. Making the build up more & more intense then as the breakdown hits, the strips it back & adds splashes of colour to help the breakdown become even more special.

As we hit the track “Undertow” i can firmly say its my favourite track the band have written to date & also my top track of the year. Featuring Kristina Esfandiari (King Woman) this track is the most expansive in the band’s discography. A true sonic journey.

Layering guitar effects to create a cloak of panic as Esfandiari’s sultry voice weaves in & out of the track, Pligge’s cries of anguish echo in the back.

The track feels like a descent into madness. Much like “Temptation” from “Posthuman” this track fits beautifully in the album’s running order. It’s not buried in the album; it fits perfectly as the album is creating more & more of an atmosphere.

As the track closes an ungodly breakdown begins, A true neck breaker & with all texture elements it adds so much. Then the band wants to really finish you off with one last mosh moment that leaves you beaten & broken.

Nearing the end of the album “Terrorizer” is a true auditory assault. Leaning heavily into the industrial sound the band have arranged a track that feels fresh & exciting even when it’s so punishing.

Fleshing this out to a full track was a great choice. Others might have used it as a brief sample between tracks but this deserves its place as it’s truly the most punishing in the band’s arsenal.

Harms Way have really become their own beast. Progressing each album to become an even more harder & powerful machine.

“Common Suffering” is a culmination of the history of Harms Way. Having moments from the “Isolation” era & the experimentation of “Blinded” to create something that is truly a new breed.

With this newest album they have been able to write a record that is the next landmark in their career. “Common Suffering” is a true showcase of one’s dedication to a band’s overall sound & integrity.

Review: Joseph Mitchell

Common Suffering is out via Metal Blade Records on 29th September 2023

  Silent Wolf 2:45
  Denial 3:04
  Hollow Cry 3:09
  Devour 2:40
  Undertow 3:42
  Heaven’s Call 4:04
  Cyanide 3:44
  Terrorizer 3:28
  Sadist Guilt 3:55
  Wanderer 4:22


Band members:

James Pligge – lead vocals
Christopher Mills – drums
Nick Gauthier – guitars
Bo Lueders – guitars
Casey Soyk – bass

Reality Approaches (2009, Organized Crime)
Isolation (2011, Closed Casket Activities)
Rust (2015, Deathwish)
Posthuman (2018, Metal Blade)