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HAREM SCAREM - Thirteen (Review)
Harry Hess & Pete Lesperance
It’s no secret I’m a card carrying Harem Scarem fanboy and the band can do (almost) no wrong. Every album has featured at least a few legendary songs; most albums for me have been front to back brilliant. I even go against the traditionalists and rate Voice Of Reason very highly and the two Rubber albums remain underrated.
So this is the guy’s first studio album in 6 years, following on from the awesome Mood Swings 2 release. You might expect the guys to continue in the Mood Swings style, such as the 3 new tracks from MS2 did, but this is more simply Harem Scarem just being themselves.
Naturally gifted to deliver chorus upon chorus of memorable harmonies, riffs and hooks, Thirteen features elements of Weight Of The World, Higher, Overload and Hope.
It’s a continuation of the second half of the band’s career.
And while I rate every album highly – this is going to stand out as one of the band’s truly great records. This is right up there with the debut, Mood Swings, Weight Of The World and Higher for me.
10 songs, just under 40 minutes, no fuss, no padding ,no fillers, just pure melodic bliss from start to finish.
Production is great and the choruses really do seem to stand out even more than normal. It’s just one after another after another.
Anyone wanting to see how a catchy, memorable melodic rock album is done – learn from what Harem Scarem have done here. Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance are simply one of the finest writing pairs that have ever been part of the melodic rock scene.
Track By Track:
Garden of Eden is a perfect start to the album. A pop influenced melodic rocker, its only 45 seconds from start to the chorus and that is about the same for the whole album. Nothing but hooks and harmonies here. The chorus (as is usually the case for harem Scarem) is layered with harmonies and begs to be sung along to. A nice little progressive Mr. Big style guitar solo mid-song adds texture before diving right back into the chorus.
Live It turned my head initially. The outset of the song is quite different for the band and Harry’s verse vocal is certainly a refreshing burst of energy. The chorus is nothing but pure Harem anthemic goodness.
Early Warning Signs sees the sound turn darker and a little heavier, but still with that commercial feel that all Harem songs have. I’m hearing influences of the album Overload here, with a sharp twist for the bridge before a pure power pop chorus comes out of nowhere. The chorus has hints of Weight Of The World in it.
I adore The Midnight Hours. It starts with a moody slow verse and a melodic bridge before a massive layered, more urgent chorus delivers a devastatingly good hook.
Whatever It Takes is the only real slow paced ballad. This is a classic Harem Scarem ballad complete with nice guitar solo, heartfelt lyrics and of course, a monster harmony filled chorus.
Saints and Sinners is another track with a heavier Overload style feel. And it’s another absolute monster. The tracks moves at a decent pace with a moody verse rises to another catchy as hell chorus. Love it!
All I Need has some great guitar work from Pete underneath a song with a modern power pop heart, but with a classic old-school anthemic chorus. A great contrast once again between verse and chorus, which seems to be a highlight of this album’s song writing.
Troubled Times gives no indication of where it’s going from the start. It’s Weight Of The World and Higher meets Overload, slowly building through the verse and bridge to tempo lift and a chorus that may just never leave your head again. Ever. Classic.
Never Say Never is slower and once again pretty moody to start before yet another hook steers you into a mid-tempo harmony filled chorus. Simply put – just another great track.
Stardust is another stunning song to be honest. Featuring some great lyrics, it starts with a heavy feeling and a strong, tuned down guitar sound before lifting to a massive chorus with some terrific harmonies and a similar feel to the slower closing part of Change Comes Around from Mood Swings.
The Japanese release adds an acoustic version of The Midnight Hours, while the European version adds Garden Of Eden acoustic, which both work wonderfully in the stripped back format. A nice contrast to the electric versions.
The Japanese limited edition also adds a bonus disc featuring 8 tracks of the band live in 2013 in Japan. This is where the loyalty of the hard core fan is really stretched. I love the performance on these tracks – many Mood Swings classics in energetic form – but the quality isn’t much better than an audience recorded bootleg. Definitely for the die-hards only, but that’s me, so I’m good with it.
It took way too long to get here, but it was worth the wait. Simply put - another glorious album from the band that defines melodic rock for me. Superb songs, superb sound, superb performances.
Essential for all fans of this site and the music I promote.
So close to perfect I’m not sure why I’m not giving it 100!