Hark
Crystalline


3.8
excellent

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
March 15th, 2014 | 50 replies


Release Date: 03/18/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: On their debut album the Welsh trio imbue the primal power of sludge metal with intricate progressive leanings to riveting effect.

Sludge metal has always been predominantly about bludgeoning riffs pummeling the listener into submission. The most successful acts in this sphere, though, are capable of fusing the relentless heaviness with different styles of music to suit their cause. Take Torche whose pop leanings have landed them substantial following outside the metal realm, or Beastwars whose potent mash-up of sludge metal and AmRep noise rock has displayed a distinctive quality. Similarly, Welsh trio Hark only use the primal, groove-laden power of sludge metal as a foundation for their progressive inclinations. The songs on Crystalline are plenty complex with meticulous twists and turns oftentimes honed to perfection. The might of Crowbar, High On Fire and the likes is juxtaposed with the technicality of Tool and a dash of hardcore pugnacity to captivating effect.

The musicianship on show is nothing short of commendable. Even though Crystalline is technically a debut album, vocalist-guitarist Jimbob Isaac knows the ins and outs of heavy rock as he fronted Taint last decade. The boisterous output of these underrated sludge metal luminaries has left its stamp on Hark's debut full-length, yet the former Whyteleaf rhythm section of bassist Nikolai Ribnikov and drummer Simon Bonwick lends this album its stylistic individuality. Earth-shaking rhythmic rolls provide a skeleton for turbulent chord progressions and Isaac's angular riffs which permeate through the group's labyrinthine arrangements. Naturally this approach results in the album that's challenging with plenty of listening sessions required to decipher every of its copious nuances. Hark make this effort worthwhile, delivering a multitude of dexterous transitions and contrasting moods. That doesn't mean that Crystalline is terribly efficient. There are passages on the album that feel overly stretched-out, and some editing should be done to transform certain songs into more visceral pieces. For instance, 'Sins on Sleeves' overstays its welcome, unnecessarily prolonging its doomy last act. The trio are clearly at their best when they stick to more compact song structures like on robust opener 'Palendromeda' which brims with acerbic bass lines, intricate drums and riffs that can throttle then groove deeply.

Converge’s Kurt Ballou provides the ample weight and breadth to the mix, making every instrument sound as articulate and punishing as possible. Although Crystalline is majorly an instrumentally oriented album, Isaac's gruff vocals and feral roars are tailor made for this kind of music. He delivers an authoritative performance with a penchant for corrosive vocal harmonies, establishing the record's most immediately alluring moments. 'Hounded By Callous Decree' boasts a rousing chorus, while 'Scarlet Extermities' centers around a formidable vocal hook that later on devolves into an epic Tool-echoing crescendo. The most staggering segment of grand, chameleonic closer 'Clear Light Of...' comes when Isaac teams up with Clutch's Neil Fallon. Needless to say, the end result packs a punch.

It takes a few spins to fully appreciate the ambitious scope at hand here, but this is the type of record that unfolds the longer one ventures into its complexities. Hark are masterfully in control of their craft, and Crystalline is a heaving beast of an album. The lapses in consistency can be forgiven as the trio's brand of progressive sludge metal displays enough novelty to leave a powerful impression on heavy rock and metal fans alike.




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user ratings (43)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

It's streaming here:

http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/news/exclusive-stream-harks-debut-album-crystalline/

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2014


16057 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oh liked that one track you linked before, need to check

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


3445 Comments


Great stuff! Will jam it again right now.

Digging: Mark Lanegan - Phantom Radio

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2014


16057 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think this blow away the cheese clogged in my passages from listening to ELO

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Raise your canons !!!

jefflebowski
March 15th 2014


8253 Comments


great review, as per usual. always nice to see welsh bands being featured on here too

jefflebowski
March 15th 2014


8253 Comments


though as per usual i'm not at all a fan of ballou's production

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

He has only mixed it, and yeah I've reviewed a fair share of Welsh groups over the years. These guys, Future of the Left, Exit_International and probably sth else.

Mad.
March 15th 2014


3977 Comments


Great review, this looks promising but I'm more into the stoner/prog side of the spectrum than the heavy/sludge side


"always nice to see welsh bands being featured on here too"

Well, nobody's gonna be featuring Lostprophets again any time soon

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2014


16057 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

opener is brilliant but a lot of this isnt immediately appealing, might need some spins, feels like a grower though

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

"Great review, this looks promising but I'm more into the stoner/prog side of the spectrum than the heavy/sludge side"

^This is actually progressive stoner/sludge metal.

"opener is brilliant but a lot of this isnt immediately appealing, might need some spins, feels like a grower though"

^You're right. This definitely grows on you after multiple spins. The song structures are just too complex to find them appealing after one listen. These guys very rarely follow verse-chorus-bridge structure.



Funeralopolis
March 15th 2014


11560 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So how much does this sound like Tool?

Digging: Deep Puddle Dynamics - The Taste of Rain...Why Kneel

Jethro42
March 15th 2014


12478 Comments


Palendromeda sounds great.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

"So how much does this sound like Tool?"

It basically sounds like Tool started playing sludge metal. Musically of course, the vocals are totally different.

Funeralopolis
March 15th 2014


11560 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yea I just finished listening to Palendromeda, I can see the resemblence will have to check out rest. Not really much of a fan of sludge tho tbh.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2014


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

My favorite track on this is probably Scarlet Extremities. It just kicks so much ass.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2014


50522 Comments


"though as per usual i'm not at all a fan of ballou's production"

wtf

Irving
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2014


7311 Comments


Every year I keep swearing that this is the year I listen to more sludge...time to make good on that promise by picking this up!

Great writeup Greg. *thumb*

Relinquished
March 16th 2014


25192 Comments


check my list irving

bloc
March 16th 2014


34919 Comments


Some great songs on this



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