Harbinger Uprising is a Clarksville, Tennessee based band that formed in 2009. This progressive metal group is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Morgan Adames, and features John Knight on lead guitar, Tim Filer on bass, and drummers Chris Frost and Brett Marbes. Frost was Harbinger Uprising’s original drummer, with Marbes coming in during the recording of this debut album, titled “Line in the Sand”. However, Frost is still credited with playing on some of the tracks in this record. These songs were recorded in 2013 at Falcon Sound Studios, but “Line in the Sand” was not released until August of this year. Harbinger Uprising’s music as been gaining a measurable amount of attention as of late, recently ranking #1 for the Tennessee area on NumberOneMusic, an indie music hosting and promotional sight, and have had tracks from “Line in the Sand” played on international radio stations.
The best way to describe the sound on Harbinger Uprising’s debut album is a fusion between the early sensibilities of Tool and the crossover rap tendencies of Rage Against the Machine. In terms of its overall atmosphere, production quality, and tone, “Line in the Sand” stands as an energetic and intellectual testament to modern progressive metal music. Everything about this album is tight, dynamic, and impressively heavy. This is not one of those progressive metal bands that spams forty-five minutes of blast beats, power chords, and disjointed tremolo-picked riffage between lackluster screams and growls. On the contrary, all the compositions in “Line in the Sand” feel like their own experience, often possessing multiple sonic layers and complex, segmented movements that serve to create an enveloping tapestry of progressive assault, whether through the guitar, bass, and drum work in intricate and diverse instrumentals such as “Only a Second Ago” and “Eye on the Prize”, or the lyrical onslaught in tracks like “Line in the Sand”. The guitars in this album sound fantastic. Not only are many of these tracks incredibly melodic and showcase a keen sense for harmony, but the actual tone of the guitars has been masterfully refined. The mix has that signature, super polished “modern” heavy guitar sound with the scooped mids and high gain that listeners will know from bands like Tool, Deftones, and RATM. The drums in “Line in the Sand” are full of punch, maintaining complex patterns with an unorthodox approach to rhythm that listeners will find to be pleasantly creative. Moreover, it can simply be stated that their presence in this record is absolutely explosive. A lot of the times, metal drums are mixed in ways that sound incredibly tinny and shallow, particularly in respect to the snare. This is not the case with Harbinger Uprising. These drums are weighty, tight, and have their way of coming out of the mix and pretty much punching you in the face when your listening to them. It’s pretty cool. If you want the full drumming experience on this album, listen to the sixth track, “Dive”, especially toward the end. Some of the riffs in “Line in the Sand” are lights-out, and bone-crushingly heavy. Listen to the opening/main riff on the third track, “Heroes”, as an example; it is probably one of the more Tool-like songs from this band, but does an excellent job of combining several musical layers together into a massive sonic collage. This band is an experience, no question about it. Another important thing that needs to be mentioned is the depth to Harbinger Uprising; up to this point, I’ve been praising the group for its heaviness, but Morgan Adames songwriting is much more than heavy, it is intellectual and serves as some pretty meaningful social commentary. Not to mention, his voice is perfect for the type of music this group plays. On the heavier songs, he has the same fiery rasp as Maynard James Keenan from Tool, on the more rap/crossover tunes, his flow and emphasis sounds almost identical to Zack de la Rocha from RATM. There is so much that can be said and so much that can be examined in “Line in the Sand”. Listeners will find this album so huge, heavy, and insightful that one could get lost in its depths and be totally fine with it.
There are so many positive qualities to this album, one of them being its ability to create a “sonic tapestry” of instrumental and vocal layering. However, some listeners may not appreciate all the effects that were incorporated into the mix. For example, the instrumentals on “Line in the Sand”, although spectacular, would have been more enjoyable if they were just bass, guitar, and drums. The music is so intricate and layered already that the occasional effects in these tracks, although usually only minor, seemed a little excessive, distracting, and overwhelming. In short, and perhaps as somewhat of a paradox, sometimes a progressive band sounds their most dynamic and creative when at their most straight-ahead and sparing.
Harbinger Uprising had made a truly impressive debut album. “Line in the Sand” is a sonic whirlwind of heavy riffs, titanic drumming, and lyrical bombardment that takes contemporary progressive metal to a new standard. These guys are the guys to beat, they are musical front runners in their genre, and it is somewhat surprising their music is still semi-underground. “Line in the Sand” is a creative triumph, and Harbinger Uprising has shown their massive potential with this high quality performance.
Artist: Harbinger Uprising
Album: Line in the Sand
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rap Crossover
Sounds Like: Tool, Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skills: 9/10
Best Songs: Heroes, One Day Alone, Only A Second Ago
Strengths: Overall excellent musical compositions, significant lyrical and instrumental depth
Weaknesses: Usage of effects is hit and miss throughout the album