Some bands make it big and some don’t. Some bands don’t deserve to make it big (because they suck) and some bands really do. Unfortunately, the God of success don’t give flying f**k about how talented you are or how many great songs you have written, he/she just throws success out to the ones that comes around when he’s/she’s in a good mood. Well, it’s not that easy but sometimes you wonder why shitty artists sells gazillions of records and other artist with enough talent to sell doesn’t even sell records to their friends’ friends. But as we know, the world isn’t a fair place and sometimes shit just don’t work. One band I was sure would be a giant of rock is Canadian melodic hard rock band Harem Scarem. Even though they released their second – and probably their most famous – album Mood Swings in 1993 when grunge was about to kick everything melodic hard rock into the trash bin, I thought that they would rise above that. They had already released a self titled debut album in 1991, an album I didn’t know existed until a few years ago, without getting international attention much, but with the second release, things started to move upward for the band. But my interest in the band would be short-lived.
Already by the follow-up, 1995’s Voice Of Reason, I lost interest, all to the fact that the band had started to turn to more alternative (read: grungy) sounds and the record disappointed me deeply. That led to me not checking the band out further when they released the rest of the albums until many, many years later – something I regret now because even though there was some filler releases, the band also released some really good albums up until their break-up in 2007. Albums such as Weight Of The World (2002), Overload (2005) and Human Nature (2006) are all strong efforts full of catchy melodic hard rock much in vein of Mood Swings. However, none of those albums managed to catch my interest on a bigger note. But back in 2014, Harem Scarem released Thirteen, an album I look upon as a come back for the band – and an album that really go me going, almost as much as Mood Swings did that day back in 1993. So, back on track, the Canadian foursome is back with another album and this time I’m having high hopes for it.
They open the album with the title track. Usually rock bands like to open an album with a fast and rough rocker but Harem Scarem aren’t most rock bands. This tune is in mid pace, but at the same time it works its way around with a steady beat and a killer groove. The arrangement and main melody is Harem Scarem all the way and the chorus is insanely catchy. The song got me hooked from go and it just keeps getting better every time I hear it. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” – single # 2 – goes into a more AOR-ish territory albeit in a heavier way. It is also mid tempo but the amazingly catchy refrain makes it an obvious single choice. The tune is brilliant and deserves to be a monster hit. “Gravity” comes along with a pretty funky rhythm, a terrific groove and a big and memorable chorus that sticks right away – another killer.
Song number five – “Sinking Ship” – is single number one and it’s the same thing here – a big melodic hard rocker with an amazing melody and the catchiness will kick you right out of your skin. “One Of Life’s Mysteries” is the album’s big power ballad. It is super catchy with every hook in the world, but never cheesy one bit. Again, the whole arrangement just screams Harem Scarem and once nailed to the brain, it is impossible get it off – pure brilliance! “No Regrets” is the first real uptempo rocker and both its striking verse melody and the sticky chorus comes with a slight Bryan Adams twist. But fear not, I’m not talking about the Bryan Adams of lately but the one who made great records back in the 80’s / early 90’s. Another killer track. “Bite The Bullet” is a bit heavier and much rougher than the previous tracks but it’s still very much in the melodic rock vein – and the catchiness is resplendent.
“Things I Know” is slower but not quite a ballad. It’s pretty riff-happy and it is groovy and propulsive. The refrain is so brilliant it leaves me flabbergasted – I’m thinking we have single # 3 in this tune. “The Sky Is Falling” is an upbeat pop-rocker that has the recognizable Harem Scarem melodies mixed with a Beatles influence and a big swing – a damn good song. The verses in “Heaven And Earth” are in a slower pace but the chorus hits hard and distinct with melodies so addictive catchy you need to go to rehab to get rid of them – not that you’d want to. Single material, to say the least. Closing track “Indestructible” starts out a ballad with a flavor of both a bit of gospel and some cowboy country but the song quickly turns into a melodic hard rocker on the softer side. The big power pop vibe comes through at the most in the amazing chorus and once again, I hear a single here.
What Harem Scarem started with the last album Thirteen reached its goal with this album. Harem Scarem’s mix of melodic rock, AOR and classic hard rock hits like a ton of bricks on this album and when you add to the fact that this band has a sound of their own – you can spot Harry Hess’ and Pete Lesperence’s melodies a mile away – it’s quite easy to state that we have a winner here. This band might rely heavily on pop melodies but they never ever get mawkish or cheesy, only melodic and catchy, but always with ROCK as the base for their music. For any fan of the band, this album is a must but for folks with an interest in this kind of music but never heard (of) these guys, it’s about bloody time now. This is their finest effort since Mood Swings and even though the nine I’ve given it here is a bit weak – it really should be 8,5 but I don’t do decimals – it’s very highly recommended any melodic hard rock fan out there. Buy!
More Harem Scarem reviews:
2. Here Today Gone Tomorrow
4. Sinking Ship
5. One Of Life’s Mysteries
6. No Regrets
7. Bite The Bullet
8. Things I Know
9. The Sky Is Falling
10. Heaven And Earth