HARK – Crystalline

HARKHARK

Crystalline

01. Palendromeda
02. Hounded by Callous Decree
03. Sins on Sleeves
04. Black Hole South West
05. Breathe and Run
06. Mythopoeia
07. Scarlet Extremities
08. All Wretch No Vomit
09. Xtal 0.6
10. Clear Light Of…

[03/14/14]
[Season of Mist]

What is it about stoner sound that holds so much power? Is it the unbridled joy in simply letting the guitars go, keeping your sound dirty and free? Or perhaps the rolling drums simply reverberate in that certain way to set our hearts a-thumping. Whatever it is that makes this genre so powerful, HARK have heaps of it. Crystalline is a bewildering album: on the several first hearings it plays like what we would expect; a massive, slow moving, enticing iceberg of sound. But as one goes deeper, setting for the subtleties at the album’s heart, one can find a progressive core that’s strangely eluding. Little touches and intelligent writing elevate Crystalline to a degree of sophistication that’s rarely found in the genre.

A prime example is the track ‘Scarlet Extremities’. Beneath the emotion dripping vocals, hides an intriguing structure: the drums play a bizarre chase around the bass, rarely settling down into something cohesive. The bass itself is a beauty of its own, taking hold near the middle of the song and carrying the full weight of the lead part. The tone is perfect here, working with the guitars to create a unique soundscape. The guitar seems to decrease in size, growing thinner alongside it while complementing it at every turn.  HARK know how to speak straight and true as well. ‘All Wretch No Vomit’ for example is an excellent kick-in-the-face rocker. It has all the ingredients needed to send your feet stomping and your fists clenching. The fifth track, ‘Breathe and Runis perhaps the most captivating of the lot. Its main riff is pure Clutch, drawing from the earlier, in your face sound. The singing is harsh but evocative, moving away from the Clutch inspiration and closer to earlier works by Black Sabbath coupled with an insanely beautiful harmony near the end.

By juxtaposing these two styles HARK keep you on your feet. Longer, more pronounced songs like ‘Sins on Sleeves’ live surrounded by shorter, more intense outliers like ‘Black Hole South West’ or the insanely infectious ‘Mythopoeia’. This last shows us that HARK mean business: when they’re not busy beguiling us with subtleties, they can simply buckle down and deliver sludge straight to the vein. At this point, it’s time for some name dropping. This album benefits from the work of two amazing talents, namely the production wizardry of Kurt Ballou and the powerful vocals of one Neil Fallon. What’s amazing about these contributions, is that HARK have managed to make them their own. Kurt is undoubtedly one of the most talented producers in modern metal but HARK have either internalized his sound or staked out ground of their own. At no point does the production sound forced or unnatural.

With Neil, the same process takes place and is even more evident. Instead of giving him a typical role, they’ve given him a HARK role to make his own. The result is undoubtedly the high point of the album and its closing track, ‘Clear Light Of…’. Here, all elements come together: on top of heavy riff works sit complex and crisp leads. At certain parts it goes so heavy and slow that one is forced to devote all attention to it. The production is organic and crystalline. The apex is Neil Fallon’s unmistakable voice kicks in. There’s no doubt about it, this man is a master. However, the full credit goes to HARK once again: the vocals are clearly their own and work perfectly with the theme of the entire album. ‘Clear Light Of…’ then is the encapsulation of this album: an iceberg adrift in a sea of complexity and innovation. It rolls over you and dazes you, creating captivating shapes in the smoke while holding firmly to heavy, powerful sounds.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5co0kqF5Lkg&w=560]

HARK – Crystalline gets…

4.5/5

-EK

Comments

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.






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