Review Summary: The blunt mixture of technically oriented death/grindcore and sludgy post-metal doesn't pan out so well. A decent album marred by the band's identity crisis.
I hate labelling bands. In this day, it's becoming an increasingly arduous process that's rarely worth the effort. To support this idea, I give you Betrayer, the latest release from Harlots.
It took a few listens for me to really figure out what I was listening to. "The Weight Unweighable" starts off in a blur, blasting through impatient time changes and dissonant shred. The first chunk of the song falls comfortably alongside Cephalic Carnage and the Red Chord, while the second half reflects a slower, groovier breakdown that sort of sounds like a mix between [MySpace flavour of the week] and the Dillinger Escape Plan.
The restraint shown at the end of the first track is apparently futile, as "Avada Kedavra" commences with even more dissonant dweedly weedly©
, blast beats and frenetic chugalug. Of course, it also slows down about a minute and a half in, eventually heading down a sludgy route with a slight post-hardcore twist. The next track follows the pattern, starting off with its fast paced, blast based attack, but it too decides to slow down. As a tapping lead sways in and out, an intermittent breakdown takes shape and shoots a much needed sense of invigoration into the album. The last minute of "Full Body Contortion" consists of clean howls and longer more organic chord progressions, ending with a synth passage that leads into "Dried Up Goliathan", a venerable mid-paced track that makes full use of the band's notable wall of sound. Sounding more in-keeping with Isis than anything, the 8-minute track explores a more viscous, brooding sound, which, as you may have figured, is relatively short lived.
At this point, I'm wondering to go about classifying a band that can't be bothered settling on a sound. The album is a 43 minute exercise in futility; a formulaic 9 tracks that jump back and forth between chaos and mire. The songwriting on Betrayer
is lax, and the band truly does fall victim to auditory diarrhea. Tracks like "Dried Up Goliath" do nothing but emphasize the absurd barrage of notes found on "Building Up An Empire Towards Destruction". If anything, "Dried Up Goliath" is situated in such a way that it emphasizes just how displaced the album's sound truly is.
It's not all bad. The album is heavy as sin, an immediate plus for some, and the guitars and drums are technically outstanding. Vocally, the disc runs the gamut, usually vying for a dual approach, blending screams and yells with deeper gutturals, with some clean shouting thrown in for good measure.
It took me three or four full spins to fully digest the album. By my fifth listen, I realized it probably wasn't worth it. Both sounds on the album are executed well enough, but the album is without any natural flow. The sound on the album jumps back and forth, creating a harsh contrast in direction that's both frustrating and disappointing. The band has potential, and that's worth looking into, but the album isn't focused enough for me to highly recommend it.