Oklahoma’s Patrick Harnish is back And he’s a bit miserable. Again.

But though you might think that by now, the bald-headed balladeer’s schtick might be wearing a bit thin after four albums, you’d be wrong. Horribly wrong. Because, although Some Killers displays little or no move from Harnish’s already hard-won territorial claims – he really is the undisputed king of gothic American murder balladry – it is also by some way his most well-rounded and pleasing work yet.

This might have something to do with the fact that our hero has co-opted the talents of some fellow midwesterners to break up the misery a bit – around half the tracks feature guest performances – but it also has a lot to do with the fact that Harnish has turned in a nicely-paced set of songs that keep the listener engaged at all times.

Second track No One Leaves This Place is a startling starter, a ripsnorting mix of Slayer and Metallica that, when paired with next track Digital Heresy, which has a vague feel of Limp Bizkit about it, makes for a pretty energised opening gambit. Something like normal service is returned by track five, the flesh crawling Devil In Disguise, an unsettling piece of classic Harnish, but even here the guitar solo adds an epic stadium metal flourish to proceedings that takes the song to another level. And talking of another level – the already-released first single, The Rider, should facilitate Harnish’s rise more than a few rungs up the ladder if it gets a fair run in the right places in the next few weeks and months.

Put simply. Harnish’s work here with Fall Child vocalist Cody Slane is nothing short of brilliant, a spine-tingling mix of country and metal that is absolutely the best thing Harnish has committed to wax thus far. Bombastic yet darkly intimate at the same time, it should be the feel-bad hit of the (Northern) Summer if there’s any justice…

Season Of The Witch throws down the gauntlet to the resurgent Pist.On – and what a touring team-up Harnish and Henry Font and co. would make – whilst the presence of female vocalists Andrea Shirley and Jillian Mahaffey on the sticky, sulphurous No Better Night To Die and the delicately broken Who Will Save Me Now respectively, adds a nice feminine perspective to Harnish’s normally very masculine soundscapes.

Some Killers finds a confident Patrick Harnish honing and refining his art, in the process revealing a depth as an artist that might not have seemed feasible two albums ago. It’s progression, but clearly progression with clearly-defined parameters. And on this evidence those parameters might well be blown apart next time out. I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Some Killers releases on August 27th.