Higher | review

A CD filled with amazing hooks, great choruses and gasp! Guitar solos in 2004? Can it be true? Harem Scarem definitely takes it one step "Higher".

Harem Scarem is one of Canada's most under rated and under appreciated bands. Virtually unknown in their home country, (except for in the early 90's when they received a lot of airplay on Canadian radio and their videos were in heavy rotation on MuchMusic, Canada's version of MTV), they have seen music styles come and go and return again. They are definitely rock n roll survivors. Their albums "Harem Scarem" and "Mood Swings" are considered two of the finest melodic rock recordings ever made. After 14 years, their albums still continue to garner rave reviews worldwide. Their previous recording "Weight of the World" even made 411's "Top Ten CD's of 2002" yet wasn't even released in the USA! The big question of their fans in 2003 was would founding members and main songwriters Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance be able to top "Weight Of The World". Would they try and duplicate Weight of the World? Would they return to their side project "Rubber" sound? Or would they go back in time and try to re create another Mood Swings? In late 2003, Harem Scarem fans found out the answer with the band's seventh CD, "Higher. They were definitely surprised with what they heard.

Quite simply, "Higher" is an amazing piece of work from beginning to end. The songs flow together flawlessly. It's Harem Scarem doing what they do best, and that is releasing a CD which is notonly very polished, but filled with big chorus's, great guitar work, and some of the most catchy melodies not heard in years. It is a modern sounding album, but with a twist: It combines the best of today's sounds and it brings back the best parts of this style of music when it was dominating the airwaves nearly 20 years ago.

The album kicks off with the dark sounding "Reach". While not single material, it is definitely one of the heaviest tracks they've done in quite some time. It harks back to their more grunge/alternativesound on their 1995 "Voice of Reason"CD. Good opening track.

"Waited" starts off with a very catchy acoustic riff, and just when you think it is turning into a pleasant unplugged ballad, the MONSTER chorus kicks in and sets the tone for the rest of the song. I'm asucker for a great chorus and "Waited" has one of the best ones I've heard in years. It's ashame that radio hasn't picked up on it, because it would be a huge hit.

"Torn Right Out" is an upbeat modern pop rock number, which again has another fantastic sing along chorus. It is one of many standout tracks on this CD.

"Give It To You" is a straight out "nu-breeed" rocker in the vein of Green Day, Sum-41, and Blink-182. Fans of their songs "If You" and "All I Want" will definitely be pleased. This is the track that Pete Lesperance's guitar work shines through. You cannot help but to play air guitar along with it, it's that catchy! Also credit should be given to bassist Barry Donaghy and drummer Creighton Doane for giving the song its solid backbeat and punch.

What's a melodic CD without a ballad? The album's title track "Higher" gives new meaning to the term "Power Ballad". It has a very Def Leppard or Extreme feel to it. From the multi-layered vocals, heartfelt lyrics, to the amazing production values it is the most intense sounding song on the album. This is another track that if released to radio it will be a monster hit.

Following up the ballad is "Run And Hide". It has a solid rock vibe to it, with a chorus that will have melodic rock fans picking their jaws up off of the floor in sheer amazement. Especially once the guitar solo is done and they go straight into the chorus. You just don't hear that in music nowadays, andthat is a damn shame. Someone once said, "don't bore us, just get to the chorus" and this song delivers hands down.

"Lucky Ones" is another chorus heavy number, but it has the same dark and heavy feel as the opening track. It's arrangement is definitely well crafted, with Peter Lesperance switching from the acoustic guitar to the heavy rock sound and back again to keep the song dark, yet very melodic. It's the perfect song to follow the pop-rock masterpiece of "Run and Hide".

"Lies" follows "Lucky Ones" very well. It is Harry Hess's powerful vocal performance on this track, which like the two previous songs makes it an instant melodic classic. He's definitely giving 100% here. Add that to another knock down, drag out chorus, and the listener can't help not enjoying the listening experience. Finally, the "organ" instrumental break is a stroke of genius. It will leave you speechless.

"Gone" starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar followed by a very melodic vocal by Harry, which blossoms into another monster chorus, that just wants to make you pick up a lighter, get your hands in the air and start singing along. It also has a very uplifting and positive message.

"Lost" starts as another modern sounding, groove filled, riff-laden piece, which delivers you full tilt and face first into another amazing chorus. It's always great when your closing track wants you begging for more!

Finally, for those of you that picked up the Japanese import of "Higher the bonus track "Wishing" is a departure from the chorus laden songs on the rest of the CD. It is a very haunting ballad and Harry Hess's vocals are some of the strongest I've ever heard from him. Fans of Journey take note; you can definitely hear their influence on this song.

The 411 .::. "Higher" has everything that a rock release should have: Amazing hooks, great harmonies, powerful and memorable choruses, outstanding musicianship and above all else well written songs. It's all of these attributes, which has made this my favorite CD of 2003. If there were such a thing as a perfect melodic rock record, this would be it. The only complaint I have is the length of the CD. 38 minutes is not enough! One or two more songs would be a bonus. So if you are fan of bands like Journey, Styx, Def Leppard, Extreme, Bon Jovi or Hagar era Van Halen, check these guys out. I'll think you'll agree that this CD and their previous CD "Weight Of The World" blows away anything that Def Leppard or Bon Jovi have released recently. They've lost touch with what it means to be melodic. Luckily we can depend on Harem Scarem to deliver the goods.

Review by Jodes Serner
Originally posted at 411mania.com