Review Summary: Harlots 3rd and final LP Betrayer is a monumental metalcore album that sadly went unnoticed by most. It contains more creativity, originality, and passion than many of genre's overrated counterparts; nothing shy of sheer perfection.
Ladies and gentleman, I proudly introduce to you the relatively unknown experimental metalcore band Harlots. To put it simply, Harlots love to crush your skull with dissonant riff barrages and pedal tweaking mind-f***s. They fuse technical fret board flourishes with elements of post-metal and sludge. Their first true full-length This Is The Second death was an incredible experimental take on metalcore that fused jaw-dropping riffs and creative breakdowns with beautifully epic bridges and post-rock interludes, but the only thing that brought it down was the extremely raw production which would likely be a turn off for most people. Luckily, the production this time around is alot cleaner and polished than it's predecessor, all the instruments are mixed nicely. The vocals done by Christian Fillippo range from beefy low growling to grating high-end screams as well as a few clean voiced shouts in a few songs; all of which fit perfectly for each mood and sound the band are going for. Christian’s powerful low growls especially help add an extra dose of heaviness to their sound when necessary. Harlots are not exactly accessible for most people, the riffs they play are very dissonant and abrasive but if you wait you will see the beauty that this band is capable of concocting. I’ve always looked up to this band for the similarities we shared, as just some kids growing up in the suburbs with the desire to create mind bending and forward thinking metal even at such a young age; and having the aspiration to create music beyond people’s expectations.
Betrayer is Harlot’s 3rd and final album, it seems the band didn’t last more than a year after Betrayer’s release. It's sad because what they created with this album is truly monumental and admirable but they hardly got any recognition for it. There is so much honesty in the music, the emotions come off as truly genuine; showing the desire to rise above all the anxiety and let-downs of coming of age in modern America. They got their one shot to show what they were capable of and goddamn did they prove it with Betrayer.
‘The Weight Unweighable’ starts the album off with the crushing boom of a low-end muted chug and the fast trotting of bass drums before things kick into breakneck speed with abrasive towering riffs and lightning fast drumming. Shortly before the 2-minute mark you are thrown into the pummeling ‘Avada Kedavra’. The song sounds like you’re sailing a small boat during a violent hurricane in the middle of the Atlantic. The winds pound, the waves tower above you and thrash your ship back and forth, barely maintaining to stay afloat. This can pretty much sum up the brutal side of Harlots, they love to pummel your face in. They manage to do so much damage in such a short time, if you don’t pay attention 50 individual riffs will fly by unnoticed and that is a bad thing because there isn't really any bad riffs if you can dig their sound. Soon the riff barrage ceases and Harlots break into a heavy but gorgeous melodic section before you enter ‘Full Body Contortion’, one of the album’s highlight tracks. In typical Betrayer fashion the song starts off with lightning speed riffs and chest quaking kick drums and obliterating 16th note snare and tom rolls. The song changes speed half-way through where they start moving into a melodic bridge when the instruments begin to to take on a post-metal type build with highly rememerable and accessible guitar leads; even featuring some tasty shouted clean vocals which help add to the emotion and atmosphere of the song. The drums and guitars ebb and flow before the track reaches its epic climax and things begin to slow before you enter the album's epic post-metal centerpiece.
'Dried Up Goliathan' starts off with some keyboard ambience before the beautiful main riff that drives the song kicks off with a waltzing drum rhythm. The first climax builds until a lone guitar lead drives the rest of the band into the churning chorus where the singer Christian shouts the devastating lines “I know it's true. There is no hope. I can still see that there is a light up ahead of me. Give it up. Learn to let it go. Heaven is out of reach, hell is in sight.” This carries on for several minutes, building more momentum with each passing second before the second passage begins and in the background you hear the spoken words “Get me off of this earth” as the tension continues to rise with the ambient leads and picking up pace as the drums become more intricate rhythmically. This all builds to the final climax where the guitars start playing a heavy and epic melodic chord section that finally releases the tension that was built throughout the song, but it doesn’t end there. It is a long cathartic release until everything falls apart as the delay laden guitars and a simple drum rhythm drive things to a close. ‘Building An Empire Towards Destruction’ is another short and fast paced song similar to ‘The Weight Unweighable’ that features a cool and creative breakdown towards the end which is it’s biggest highlight. ‘Consensus For The Locust of Thought’ is another thrashing standout track with cool delay pedal tweaked riffs with battering and creative breakdowns. ‘This Is Test, No Flesh Should Be Spared’ is the best metalcore styled song on the album, clocking in a bit past the 5 minute mark. Within this amount of time Harlots are able to send you through tons of dissonant guitar flourishes and bi-polar mood swings. It’s a blast of a song that features a lot of rememberable guitar leads and impressive drum patterns. It flows right into the noise piece ‘The Concept of Existence’. The song is an example of ‘the wall of sound’ that Harlots are capable of creating. Screeching delay pedal chaos and dynamic leads follow along a dirging drum march before a cascade of speeding snare hits and ambient guitar riffs build and build until it all falls apart and Christian urgently shouts “This is the end of our war!” The song is a preamble to the albums monolithic final track.
If you made it this far then you are very lucky because you are in for a treat. The song that closes the album is the aptly titled ‘Suicide Medley’, essentially a 13-minute epic closer divided into 3 parts. Immediately you are introduced to an absolutely gorgeous guitar melody that sounds like a melody brought down from heaven. Shorty though things get dark and the guitars get distorted and start playing a low-end chord progression that is very beautiful itself but at the same time melancholic. Then shimmering tremolo picking and 16th note drum rolls build until everything dies leaving just ambient keyboards droning in the distance. I believe this part to be a musical enactment of dying and the journey of the soul as it exits the body. The ambience continues and grows, getting louder and louder before a vacuum like noise begins; simulating the sound of a soul being sucked from it's dead physical body and enters the spirit realm. This ambience ends and now enters the final epic riff barrage where Harlots give it all they got. A deathly guitar riff begins to repeat as drums lead the attack from the rear like all hell is ready to let loose… and it is. Just as Botch burned everything to the ground with the terrifying and monolithic ‘Micaragua’ as do Harlots. Giving it all with crushing riff after crushing riff; from pummeling half-time beat downs to fast paced dissonant guitar leads. Then just the drums and bass start grooving before the guitars join in for the last hoorah. Then the instruments stop and Harlots leave you with their after party where late in the night someone in the band knocks over a huge stack of empty beer cans they had stacked on a table; their laughter and mocking fade out as the album comes to a close.
To put it simply Betrayer is Harlots masterpiece, it's everything they were working towards from the start. It would have been nice to see what else this band might have been capable of if they continued but Betrayer was a great way to go out. They were too before their time; it seems not many people outside of who saw them at shows have heard of them. In the metalcore community Harlots were truly an original breed, fusing the sounds of many different bands and genres into a sound all their own. A sound that bridges both metalcore and post-metal while adding their own creative edge; even I don't know what the f*** they are doing with their delay pedals to make those insane sounds. I recommend this album to fans of abrasive and dissonant metal in general but it will likely take a few listens to wrap your head around.