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Harem Scarem - United Award winner

Harem Scarem
United
by Anna Chase at 25 June 2017, 3:53 PM

HAREM SCAREM is another short-lived 90’s success story. A Hard Rock group that formed in ‘87, shot to success in Canada and Japan, and then largely dropped out of the public eye. Their name is a reference to the old Bugs Bunny cartoons that Hess, Lesperance, and the others used to watch as kids, and despite briefly changing their title to RUBBER, the group will always be remembered in regards to their original name. The Metal scene in Canada in the 1980’s wasn’t really known for its accomplishments, and so the members of little-known Thrash bands MINOTAUR and BLIND VENGEANCE decided to combine to form Canadian super group HAREM SCAREM. They released their first full-length album in 1991, appropriately titled “Harem Scarem”, and flew to the top of the charts in Canada and internationally. By their second album, “Mood Swings”, the band had developed a sound all their own and had acquired a huge fan following in Japan, of all places, for no apparent reason. Over the next few years, they released many full-length albums and EP’s, but never again reached the level of success they had once had. After a breakup in 2010, the band briefly reunited in 2013 before taking another hiatus. In 2017, though, HAREM SCAREM shocked their fans by releasing a new album, “United”. After a rather tumultuous career, it’s high time for this largely forgotten Rock band to make a comeback.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t expect the last-ditch revival of a little-known 90’s Rock band to be great. However, “United” is an absolutely kickass song. There are middle eastern roots behind the swinging intro, but the song shifts into something completely different with every new riff. Hess’s vocals are just a bit raspy and a whole lot of Rock n’ Roll power. The chorus is catchy, the guitar riffs are sweeping and full of energy, and this song is basically a perfect example of a Hard Rock hit. “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” is very cinematic and almost sounds like a toned-down Power ballad. Though I’m not a huge fan of ballads of any kind, this song actually captivated me. The rippling guitar riffs and vocal isolations, combined with the sing-able chorus, create a very radio-friendly but also musically solid song.

“Gravity” is a thumping, rhythm-intensive groove anthem complete with layered vocals and all. I have to give it to them, HAREM SCAREM are absolute masters at writing catchy, memorable riffs that get stuck in the listener’s head, mine included. Though the drums weren’t particularly complex here, the song was cinematic and the solo was ringing and twisted up to unimaginable heights. “Sinking Ship” is decidedly heavier and faster than its predecessors, and puts forth an inspirational message of self-reliance and independence. The guitar riffs are slightly Bluesy, slightly Hard Rock, and fit perfectly with Hess’s voice and the steady rhythm of the drums. The band are definitely fans of bending, screaming solos, and they execute them flawlessly.

In “One of Life’s Mysteries”, the vocals take on a slightly different, serious tone and the guitars are backed by a generic drumbeat and keyboard melody. This almost seems like an attempt by the band to sober up, and despite the catchy chorus, it seems a bit like a clichéd ballad in the verses. However, it really reveals Hess’s vocal talent. The guy can really belt, and has a beautiful voice to boot. “No Regrets” opens with a strange plucked intro but then roars into an insanely catchy guitar riff and swaggering vocals which perfectly reflect the give-no-shits attitude of this track. As I’ve said before, HAREM SCAREM can write a chorus like no other, and this song is no exception. It’s impossible to not tap your feet to this song, and the message is one of empowerment and living in the moment.

“Bite the Bullet” started off with a kind of funky, pop-infused electronic beat, which threw me off guard a bit. This song wasn’t the strongest on the album, at least in the verses, but I have to begrudgingly admit the chorus was super catchy and the percussion was interesting. Doane really stepped up his game to make the drums stand out over the guitar in this track. In “Things I Know”, the band slows things down a notch. This one draws a little influence from Southern Rock songs for sure, especially with the wailing guitar in the background. The song really explodes into glory in the chorus, unsurprisingly, where Hess’s voice soars above the guitar and crashes of the percussion to create a flawlessly catchy song that embodies Rock n’ Roll.

“The Sky Is Falling” is a haunting song, melancholy but at the same time hiding barely-masked aggression. This gives Hess’s voice a slight edge, and his passion makes the song that much better. The chorus is shockingly bright and cheery, especially when compared to the subject matter in the lyrics, but it’s sing-able and showcases the vocals specifically, a good choice musically. “Heaven and Earth” is a chugging, drum-intensive track which again points the spotlight in the direction of Hess. I can see why the band was such a success in Canada and Japan, he’s a strong front-man with incredible vocal abilities, and the band can write and nail a perfectly catchy chorus. Though this song wasn’t particularly fast-paced, I could feel the intensity in the intertwining guitar riffs and the sweeping solo. That’s just the spirit that HAREM SCAREM has.

In “Indestructible”, ambient noise leads into a Bluesy, twangy, acoustic riff which sweeps into muted vocals. This song definitely sounded like a country track, at least until about two minutes in. While the intro was rather slow and off-putting for me, the chorus is undoubtedly Rock n’ Roll. The steady thumping of the drums sounds like the heartbeat of the track, and Hess’s voice in the chorus is magnificent, there’s really no other word to describe that power. The last song, an acoustic version of “Here Today Gone Tomorrow”, is exactly as advertised, an acoustic version of the song. Though I can’t say I’m a huge fan of acoustic guitar, the pro of this track is the fact that it isolates the pure, raw talent of all of the musicians. I could hear the guitar riffs completely, and was able to appreciate fully the musicianship involved. And not to mention Hess’s vocals, they were absolutely enchanting overlapping acoustic instruments.

To sum it up, I was floored by this album. I thought it was going to be another weak attempt by a washed-up band to create an album, but I loved this. Each track just impressed me more and more. The vocals were captivating, the songwriting was top-notch, and the talent here was just unbelievable. I rarely give out glowing praise like this, but HAREM SCAREM more than deserve it, and I hope you do yourself a favor and go buy this album right now.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. United
2. Here Today Gone Tomorrow
3. Gravity
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
11. Indestructible
12. Here Today Gone Tomorrow (Acoustic)
Lineup:
Harry Hess- Lead vocals, keyboard
Pete Lesperance- Guitar, bass, keyboard
Creighton Doane- Drums
Darren Smith- Backing vocals
Record Label: Frontiers Records
     


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Edited 21 November 2019
 

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