Overload | review

Harem Scarem re-established their name as a melodic rock super-power with their 'comeback' Weight Of The World album. Their already outstanding catalogue of music has only grown in stature since, with the also amazing Higher album and now the new release Overload.
Harem Scarem have never recorded the same album twice – each and every release has its own identity and Overload is yet another example. One observation can be made of the band's recent output. While they have definitely updated and moved on from their past, each of the last 3 records have mirrored the vibe of their very first three records – albeit not in the same order.
Weight Of The World mirrored the acclaimed classic Mood Swings; Higher matched the mellower AOR vibe of the self-titled debut and now Overload mirrors the darker, moodier and more modern vibe of the criminally underrated Voice Of Reason album.
The very nature of this record means some fans of other albums will not take to this as warmly as they might have Weight Of The World, Mood Swings or Higher.
Overload has the same recording sound as the last two albums - that snappy drum sound, crunchy guitars and Harry Hess' slightly grittier vocals – but this is a much darker and moodier album, not to mention a more aggressive album too. The delivery of Harry's lead vocals have seldom been done with such venom.
The band has allowed a far more contemporary song style to influence the album, which makes this the band's most modern album since Voice Of Reason and some tracks from Big Bang Theory and Ultra Feel.
Basically, this album is Voice Of Reason meets Higher, with a little Weight Of The World and Big Bang Theory thrown in.
As stated, that may affect some fans rating of the album – but not mine. I love this band to bits and rate them as one of the very best ever to be featured on this site.
I really have enjoyed this album and think the move back to a darker, heavier sound is a nice change. The last album was brilliant, but very pop and this is the perfect companion to that album.
The beauty of Harem Scarem is that they have a different album for just about every mood the listener may be in. This album is one for those days where things may not quite be going right and a little sonic therapy is needed.
As usual, Harry's lyrics are aggressive, forlorn, emotional and as intense as ever. But what makes this album truly special is the extra emphasis placed upon making each song more complex that one would normally expect.
No band takes simple pop songs and turns them into angst wridden melodic hard rockers like these guys.
The extra time to write and record this album shows, and while the chorus hooks may not be as instant as the last two albums, they are certainly there – featured alongside some astounding musical twists and added production layers and effects.
Harry and Pete just don't write bad songs – it's not possible. Each track here contains a verse, bridge and chorus, with extra melodies revealing themselves as time goes on.
Track By Track:
The album opens with the hard rocking swagger of Dagger – a track which rocks to start with, before dropping back a notch for a more restrained verse. The bridge picks up a notch and the chorus turns sonically monstrous, with heavy, layered guitars and a strong, aggressive lead vocal.
Afterglow is in every way a trademark Harem Scarem song. A poppy intro/verse, a burst of guitars in the Mood Swings style and then a chorus from heaven – big, over the top and hooks and riffs going everywhere. Classic Harem Scarem and without doubt, the best track on the album – but not the only classic included.
Rise And Fall sums up the style of this album – darker and moodier, with an aggressive undertow. Some very fine lyrics and an emotional delivery are a highlight, but the bridge to chorus passage is also a joy. The chorus itself is much heavier than the rest of the song and showcases the amazing ability of this band to move forward with their sound with every album. Some classic style Pete Lesperance riffs and a tasty solo puncture what is a pretty modern track. Seriously heavy vocals make this another amazing song.

Don't Come Easy is another instant classic and album highlight. A drawn-out, moody intro dissolves into an emotional angst filled vocal, backed with some crunchy, heavy guitars. What is a modern rock song turns classic Harem with a big fat old-school anthem chorus, which trails into a progressive guitar riff and back into the moody verse. Songwriting at its very best folks...
Can't Live With You is nothing short of a massive rock ballad. It has an aggressive heart, but kicks in with an acoustic guitar and builds from there. Definitely part Weight Of The World and part Voice Of Reason, this features a chorus that has such massive backing vocals, Def Leppard would be proud.
Forgive & Forget has a distinct modern rock guitar riff and an overall feel that would see it on rock radio – if there was any justice. A fast and free flowing verse flies through a bridge into a dark, aggressive chorus, with Harry's voice textured with effects. It's a very aggressive track overall and is really in your face track. Straight from the pages of Big Bang Theory/Ultra Feel with extra points for some intricate guitar parts and big backing vocals!
The second rock ballad for the album is All You're Getting, which starts with a piano intro, but quickly fires up into full band mode. A Queen-esque arrangement and Freddy Mercury inspired lead vocal, plus several layers of instrumentation make this an extremely high quality ballad and another great track. A personal favourite with some backing vocals reminiscent of Mood Swings.
Leading Me On sounds like it might be another ballad, but come chorus time, bursts to life with a big guitar driven chorus that isn't instantly memorable, but gets better after each listen. Some super intense guitar riffing in-between parts of the song deepens the impact and appeal of the song.
Understand You is another mid-tempo rock ballad, this one featuring some classy acoustic guitars and some added orchestration. A simple chorus gets more intense and in-depth as the song goers on, with some very fine harmony vocals building through the song and bringing it to a great climax.
Same Mistakes is another example of great songwriting, with a verse that sounds simple, but on further listens, reveals extra details. The dark and moody chorus is wrapped in a big guitar sound which is straight from the Voice Of Reason album.
Wishing was previously featured as the bonus track for Japan on the band's last album. My guess is that it is here merely to make up the running time of the album, as even with this extra track, the album only clocks in at 40 minutes. The song itself is a slow, moody and emotional ballad and fits the new material perfectly.
The Bottom Line
The last two Harem albums have scored perfect 100 ratings. I am not giving this album a perfect 100 score, but rather a rating the smallest distance from it. The melodies are a little harder to find this time around, which doesn't worry me one bit – as they are still all there – but I don't think everyone will be unanimously welcoming of the direction taken by this album as I am. The debate (no doubt) will rage for some time...
On the other hand, I feel the fans that have been with Harem since the debut and love every album will eat this one alive and rate it up there with some of the band's best ever work. It's every bit as consistent as the last two albums and the recording quality is nothing short of amazing.
The second half of the album doesn't quite have the punch of the first half, but overall, the intensity of the songs is utterly engaging and the extra complexities within the music show musical maturity and intelligence few artists could ever match.
Songs: 98%
Sound: 100%
Overall: 99%

Review by Andrew McNeice
Originally posted at melodicrock.com