With A Small Turn of Human Kindness, Harvey Milk have once again made a sharp left turn in their musical direction, but still they maintain to deliver an incredible listening experience.
First off, this is not a continuation of their last two records. And, unlike several journalists have wrongly noted, neither is it a so-called "return to form" record. No. This is not like anything Creston and company have ever done before.
This record is a story album. It's meant to be listened to in its entirety in one sitting, and I find that this whole experience is better and much more enjoyable if the listener familiarizes themselves with the lyrics/story.
The story itself is about a young couple fighting over an unplanned pregnancy while on a camping trip. It reminds me of grimmer version of Hemingway's "Hill's Like White Elephants" with a Flanery O'Connor-style ending.
The music is one very harsh, painful dirge. Unlike other Harvey Milk records with odd, unpredictable shifts and contrasts in melody, dynamics, tempos, meter, and mood, this one stays pretty constant. There is one pivotal dynamic change when the characters in the story each have their moments of grace. But other than that, the band has held back their proclivities for strange contrasts for this record. But still, they do an excellent job of complementing the story since it is clearly the main focus.
With all this being said, Kindness is really going to confuse and possibly even alienate some folks. It, like several Harvey Milk records, takes a few listens to really sink in. And even then, it could still be seen as difficult and pretentious. However, I find it to be a fantastic milestone in heavy music. Harvey Milk have effectively proven that it's possible combine the great, grim storytelling of southern literature with the slow, heavy bliss of sludge metal.