Sunday, March 2, 2014

Harlott – Origin

While Australia definitely has its fair share of thrash bands, there aren’t too many that have really caught my interest beyond a couple of initial listens. It is safe to say that Melbourne’s Harlott changed all of that with their debut record, “Origin”. Be forewarned: this album does absolutely nothing innovative, but thrash has never been about reinventing the wheel. Instead, “Origin” delivers some of the more impressive riffs and songs that thrash has seen this year. Songs is a key word there, as there are quite a few tracks on “Origin” that stand out beyond the typical monotonous blur of extremely fast and aggressive thrash. The title track is just one of many standouts, highlighted it’s catchy chorus that shows vocalist Andrew Hudson displaying some very rare hints of melody in his performance. Instead, he often spends much of his time spouting out words at rapid fire pace, such as on “Effortless Struggle”, and especially on “Ballistic”. This latter track is the band’s finest moment. It does an impressive job matching up to Slayer’s “Necrophobic” and the end of “Postmortem” in terms of the sheer speed of the vocal delivery. If you crave hyper-fast thrash like Fastkill, this track will definitely appeal to you.

These first three songs do a great job setting the tone for the entire record. While the songwriting is impressive, what makes “Origin” special is how tight the rhythm playing is. There are a lot of thrash bands out there that play at unreal speeds, but they can often be quite sloppy (such as many early Brazilian bands). Even the tightest of thrash bands often avoid the speeds that Harlott maintains on “Origin”. The rhythms are so technically proficient and complex that my picking hand tires just thinking about how to play them. Of course, this precision requires that the drumming be equally impressive, and it truly is. The machine gun rhythms that Harlott play on this album are greatly accented by the production. The guitar tone is incredibly crunchy during chunkier riffs, while it manages to be piercing throughout tremolo-picked sections (see the chorus of “Heirophobia” for a great example of both sounds). Surprisingly, the drums are dialed back a bit in the mix, which is effective at these speeds. Often times bands that play this fast get old quickly because of the loudness and pingy snare sound, but this isn’t the case on “Origin”.

If one were to really nitpick this album, it is possible to find a flaw. For one thing, even at 40 minutes, “Origin” would benefit from being a bit shorter. This style of thrash can be hard to digest for even short periods of time. Even though the songwriting is pretty consistent throughout, it wouldn’t be hard to cut a few of the 12 tracks to get things to a more manageable length. Nonetheless, there isn’t a boring moment on this album, and for a first effort, it is extremely promising. This is a record that’s going to appeal to pretty much all thrash fans, and even though it is by a newer band, it doesn’t feel like one of those “new wave of thrash” records, as everything from the album art, to the lyrics, and even the sound is a bit more serious than many of Harlott’s contemporaries. Either way, it is hard to imagine any fans of thrash not enjoying this record.

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Final Rating
4.6/5 or 92%. 

Written by Scott