HARK – Crystalline (Bandcamp)
2xLP | 2xCD | DL
7.5 / 10
Welsh heavy rock trio HARK released their debut album, Crystalline, last month. Joshua Hart belatedly reviews it for us.
When an album’s artwork is by John Baizley, you know that you’re probably going to get progressive, fuzzy, stoned sludge-metal. Also, perhaps coincidentally, you’ll almost always get a record that’s good if not great. Crystalline, the new album by Swansea outfit HARK, delivers on both these counts, offering a perfectly solid slice of grimy, atmospheric sludge rock.
HARK have ascended from the remnants of British hard-rock group TAINT with vocals by former frontman Jimbob Isaac. Alongside the typical sludge/stoner bombast, Isaac includes a kind of powerful, sunny melodiousness. He’s more Dave Grohl than Mike Williams.
This quality is most present on Sins On Sleeves, a rythmic, Iron Butterfly-like blast of psychedelic dirt rock. The song eventually breaks down into a biker-core slow-jam and then a classic heavy metal solo. Uplifting stuff.
Breathe and Run is also a melodic treat. Beginning with a jittery prog riff, the song morphs into a blues jam. It’s probably the most “stoner” track on the album, a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a High On Fire or Torche record.
HARK delve into some heavier fair, but it never quite takes off. Black Hole South West is a sludgy, death metally deconstruction of grunge, all bass tone and little songwriting.
If I have any qualms with this record, it’s the production. Kurt Ballou is behind the mixing desk and, although I normally consider him a kind of production savant, his work here seems relatively uninspired. Guitars are compressed and bass sounds are removed from the rhythm guitar and as a result sounds just a little bit watery. I’m not exactly working with the best stereo equipment, but it’s decent enough to pick out little intricacies.
Crystalline is nothing more than a really fine piece of heavy rock. Good for the soul.
All words by Joshua Hart. More writing by Josh on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.