Released: 2017, Frontiers
Harem Scarem has been on a roll since re-recording MOOD SWINGS II back in 2013, a rare re-recording success in that it not only brought the band back together, but they are now releasing music that equals and eclipses most of their 90s material. UNITED is the second album since the reunion, swiftly confirming that 2014’s THIRTEEN was no fluke. Much like Orden Ogan in power metal (see my July review), Harem Scarem resides in that rarified zone reserved for the most distinguished active artists in melodic metal, such as Tyketto, House Of Shakira, House of Lords, and Lillian Axe. While none of these bands could come up with a catchy band name, they all deliver the goods in this style.
UNITED basically continues the direction and success of THIRTEEN as the opening title track reveals with its complex, occidental opening riff before evolving into a catchy melodic thumper. Seriously, the low-end captured on this album should be employed by more bands, but when Frontiers is the label, this kind of crystal clear production is expected. “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” features a sterling, yet more conventional riff and a heartfelt chorus that sticks in the brain.
I’m not crazy about “Gravity” and its circus-like opening, nor its rather basic verse riff. If you are looking for the filler track, this is probably it, though the chorus redeems it somewhat. “One Of Life’s Mysteries” is the ballad, a sincere but ultimately momentum-stealing tune. And that’s it for the bad. The other 9 songs are shining examples of the classy, mature and uplifting melodic metal that the band excels at delivering. Perfect music for a cooling summer night riding along in a convertible.
Naturally, the production is basically flawless, if a bit overproduced, and Harry Hess’s vocals are like an old comforting friend. Hooks are flung here and there effortlessly along with big, inspirational choruses. As I said, this is basically the gold standard for melodic metal that leans AOR. Highly recommended for fans of that style that are not already familiar with Harem Scarem