Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Album Review: Harem Scarem - United

The world of melodic rock is one that keeps growing, but not in the way it should. There aren't many newer bands that are doing the style well, pushing it into the future. The growth comes from bands that either broke up or took time off, who have come back to the scene and swelled the ranks. Harem Scarem never went away, but they did take a few extra years off, and in the meantime not much changed. Bands from their generation are still dominating the scene, which is a phenomenon I'm not sure how to think about. At some point, we need to have some turnover at the top so the genre can maintain its strength. Bands getting their second wind can't carry us on for too much longer.

"Unity" is the second album since Haram Scarem found that second wind, and as such I'm expecting more from them, since they've now had time to get back into the swing of writing. And with so much melodic rock out there, no one can coast by on merely decent music anymore. Decent doesn't give you a leg up on anyone.

The first couple of tracks on the album take an unexpected course. The crux of the songs are the big, sunny melodies you would expect from this kind of music, but they're framed by guitar riffs that are more involved. They sound like something you would hear on one of the albums from The Winery Dogs. I'm not sure they quite fit in with the body of the songs, but it does give this album something a bit unique to start off with.

Harry Hess is a great singer, as evidenced both by this album itself, and the First Signal album that generated some buzz last year. He has a fantastic voice for melodic rock, and he polishes the choruses with enough charm to make the hooks and harmonies shine. Those harmonies might be the best thing about the entire album. So many bands neglect the power that harmonies can have in making a chorus sound huge in a way that a single vocal track can't.

The songwriting on "Unity" is the real winner. They take the familiar sounds of melodic rock and turn them into a set of songs that, for lack of a better term, is warm. That's the feeling they give off, like a warm and inviting smile. Compare this album to the similar one released by House Of Lords earlier in the year, and the difference is stark. House Of Lords was a complete disappointment, while Harem Scarem's songs have the huge hooks this kind of music begs for.

Harem Scarem may have been around for quite a while at this point, but "United" shows they're still going strong. This is the kind of album that reminds us that people who write off bands after a certain number of albums are short-changing themselves. Veterans can make good music too, and Harem Scarem are in that camp. Not many new melodic rock bands are going to make a better record this year.

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