I’m sure I’m not alone in having been curious to hear a Haru Nemuri recording within the context of a live band – it’s no secret that some of her outputs like harutosyura and SHUNKA RYOUGEN lend themselves to be presented as such given their rabid yet sprawling collection of tracks. Add to that her infectious energy in both her vocal delivery and performances, and you got yourself an indisputable winning combo. Well, I’m happy to announce that the day has come, friends: INSAINT is here to answer these prayers.
A portmanteau of insane and saint, INSAINT continues finding the Japanese poetry rapper at odds with the constantly imposed societal norms and their impact on identity and artistic expression, all the while returning to the familiar sounds of passionate and thrilling noise rock music that made her a staple of the contemporary j-rock scene. Now with a live band accompanying her, this EP illustrates how ballistic her music can truly be, made more striking thanks to her unique production stylings that amplify the feelings of defiance explored on her lyrics.
Hence the EP’s main single “I Refuse”, a commanding post-hardcore track whose adrenaline never falters throughout, and where we find Haru Nemuri calling out and rejecting the outdated stereotypes associated with femininity. The song carries this revving battle rhythm that leads towards a thrilling chorus, only followed by an explosive outro showcasing her trademark vocal harmonies. Similarly, “Surviving is Resistance” brings forth frantic instrumentation that segues into winding soundscapes that highlight some of her most blood-curdling screams yet, asserting her intentions of never surrendering to the harms inflicted by the current socio-political climate that still favors heteronormative behaviors and identities. “Destruction Sisters”, meanwhile, embodies the act of letting loose and reclaiming your space in the world through a propulsive sonic intensity that makes it a fitting opener for INSAINT.
The tracks “Flee From the Sanctuary” and “Inferno” are personal highlights from INSAINT, with the former containing some of the most hard-hitting lyrics and one my favorite Haru Nemuri vocal performances off it. Sure, the song employs some of her classic songwriting formulas, nonetheless the energy and musical delivery still manage to sound fresh and authentic. Vigorous punk passages serve as the foundation for her pent-up resentment towards her time at a Christian high school, mainly inspired by Michel Foucault‘s theory of power dynamics. Conversely, “Inferno” slows things down musically while intensifying Haru’s incessant conviction – while simplistic at face value, the drums bring out this triumphant atmosphere to the song while the guitars tastefully lock in to give way impassioned spoken word passages about the desperation of holding in the inequalities witnessed and experienced. Amping it all up to 11, however, comes the closer “No Pain, No Gain is Shit”, a fiery melodic hardcore cut with distortion constantly bursting at the seams that takes no bullshit from the capitalistic notion of the constant grind and the exploitation that follows it.
If INSAINT serves any indication, Haru Nemuri‘s hunger and determination are practically endless. Her political tenets remain as riveting as ever and, now with a live band to provide a reimagined version of her frustrations and calls to action, the ulterior message of her music cannot be any more clearer. Haru continues to abide by the riot grrrl and overall punk ethos in ways that continuously captivate, complementing them with songs that are justifyingly rowdy, absolutely entertaining, and above all, genuine all the way. To end this review, I would like to include some words from the poetry rapper herself, taken from the EP’s liner notes on her website:
‘For everyone who feels left behind by the system and the confines of what is considered ‘normal’, who continue to doubt themselves and suffer while living in the present, may this album, the hardcore punk of 2023, the feminism, exist for you. It was created with all my prayers.’