|Harem Scarem Hope||Frontiers Records|
Harem Scarem are one of those bands within this music scene who have an immensely high profile due to the number of albums they have released and the high regard in which people generally hold the band.|
When the band does release an album – everyone checks it out – and therefore you get to hear a lot of opinions. Lots of them. Not everyone is always happy, but one has to say that considering the ever changing musical route the band takes, keeping the majority happy, a majority of the time is something to be proud of.
Even some of the band's most die-hard fans can't be pleased all the time, but Harem Scarem is simply one of the most consistent and likable melodic rock bands I have ever covered.
After 11 studio albums and some 20 years making music together the guys have called it quits and this is the last album to be released.
Frustration at not being able to follow the musical direction they want and repeated calls for the band to simply repeat the formula of their most loved records have eroded the enthusiasm of Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.
But they have given fans one more record to enjoy (and no doubt debate) and Hope is that very optimistically titled record.
I'm not sure what fans were expecting from a final Harem Scarem record. I think some thought the band might finally give in and repeat the formula for Mood Swings as a farewell gesture; others thought they would deliver an album of uninspired by-the-numbers material.
Neither is true. The band close out their long and illustrious career with a challenging album that has a much darker mood than their previous, more upbeat album Human Nature and a contemporary sound that will see several songs compared to the Overload and Voice Of Reason albums.
The guys haven't played it safe here, but there are a couple of moments where you can't help but think that they could be doing this sort of thing in their sleep.
There are a few songs here that work so well that they will rate amongst my favourite songs the guys have recorded in recent years.
There are also a couple of songs that I could possibly live without, so I expect the usual fan debates to be as strong as ever.
Hope continues the production and sound style of the band's output since Weight Of The World and slots in nicely alongside Higher, Human Nature and Overload.
In my simple and plain view - if you have continued to follow Harem Scarem over the years – you will like this. Simple.
The songwriting is of the band's usual high standard and the production likewise.
Track By Track:
The kick off is Watch Your Back – probably the most classic Harem Scarem styled track on the album. Darker and moodier than Human Nature for instance, but with a great commercial chorus in typical Scarem style, it could easily have slotted into the last release or any of the last 4 albums.
Time Bomb is one of the tracks I continue to struggle with. Mostly because of an irritating repetitive cymbal through the verse that is a trademark of drummer Creighton Doane, but here it is so prominent in the mix it takes away from an otherwise adventurous modern melodic rock tune that sees Harry singing falsetto in the chorus.
Hope starts with a classic Lesperance riff and dives right into the moody and dark Overload style of melodic rock. The chorus is to me, reminiscent of Weight Of The World, so the mix of both is appealing and works well.
The next few tracks are where things get darker and heavier and represent my favourite part of the album. Days Are Numbered has a slow moody verse, but cracking beat and a soaring chorus that is completely addictive.
Dark Times is clearly more aggressive both with the intense vocal delivery and the choppy guitar riff. But a thoroughly melodic chorus shines through and takes the song in a different direction before the intensity of the verse returns. No one does melodies like these guys.
Beyond Repair is intense and heavy again, yet in a more restrained fashion to that of Dark Times. Moody and intense, but mellower through the verse, this time the guys rollout the angst and harder riffs for the chorus. A perfect contrast to that of Dark Times.
Never Too Late eases up on the angst for a bit. This is a more traditional HS melodic rocker with melodies flowing through the verse before a short tempo changing chorus changes tact slightly.
Shooting Star is the first of two big ballads and the way this one starts is reminiscent of everything we know and love about Harem Scarem. The vocal matches the recent output style of the band, as does the big chorus which features another killer melody.
Calm Before The Storm is another big uptempo rocker with a dark edge and a flurry of drums and guitars. Modern in its vocal approach and thumping drum beat, but once again, the guys deliver big time when the chorus arrives.
I love the dark and moody acoustic driven ballad Nothing Without You. It reminds me of the Overload album again, with the slight Beatles influence and some orchestral backing and is another big classy Harem ballad.
Both the Japanese and European versions close off with their own exclusive acoustic bonus tracks that don't add any real value to the albums, but are nice enough.
I've been accused in the past of consistently giving these guys high scores, but when an artist delivers quality almost every time, then why should they not be recognized for that – even if the style diverts from the expected sometimes.
That all said, I'll stick to the script and simply close off this chapter of melodic rock history by stating that Hope is yet another high caliber release from the band that will suit the vast majority of die-hard fans who have appreciated their talents over the years.
Thank you Harem Scarem.
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