HARK’s first album swaggered in and grabbed you like an amorous first world president; it was brash, bold and in your face, defying you to ignore it with its blend of stoner, heavy psych and face melting progressive angular rock.
Headed up by former Taint main man Jimbob Isaac, the release of Crystalline saw the band receive critical acclaim and land them high profile tours with Red Fang, Kylesa and Clutch to name a few. Three years later and with the writing progress having started last year, the former power trio have swelled their ranks to include the technical chops of Intensive Square’s Joe Harvett, which has added an extra element of depth and dynamics to their fretboard pyrotechnics.
Sonically there isn’t a massive departure from the first record; the music is hard hitting and combines break neck, dizzying guitar acrobatics, muscular riffing, furious drums and Isaac’s deep throated bellow in a technical masterclass of how to create complex song structures and yet make them catchy. All of that is summed in just the first track Fortune Favours The Insane.
From here on out the template is set to deliver like an Antony Joshua fight, jabbing with stiff punches to the senses then reeling off with spectacular lead work; second track Disintegration coming like the inevitable one-two upper cut after a muted start.
Lyrically Isaac covers a vast ray of subjects; spiritual, psychic, abstract prose, anger induced tales and moments of daunting information overload of the technical modern era. This is all done with a deep routed and visceral passion that help’s form his unique delivery. There are times when you can isolate the vocals from the music as a guiding narrative and there are times when they are so embedded in the song that his voice is another instrument detonating your senses.
Just in case that sounds like it might be a bit of a one trick pony, HARK never rest on their laurels. Nine Fates tempers brutal moments with shoegaze like guitar and drips with beautiful melody before pummelling the senses when you least expect in a fine moment of instrumental ingenuity. Speak In Tongues is edgy and lurching, filled with tension that is anything but plain sailing before Transmutation delivers a heartfelt groove that’s broken up by yet more technical wizardry.
It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the relentless assault, but producer Andy Hawkins has worked with artists ranging from The Damned, Ginger (Wildheart) and Motion City Soundtrack and as such captured with clarity every changing aspect of Machinations. From the mellow more introspective moments to the parts that simply melt your face off. All of this has all been lovingly mixed by the band and mastered by James Plotkin (Sunn 0))) and ISIS) into something that sounds live, vibrant and most importantly, absolutely massive.
Rounding out the album in strong form, Sons Of Pythagoras is a huge nod to the first album with its angular; almost mathcore complexity and rolling feel, which recalls Palendromeda. Premonitions keeps things in your face and features yet another delicious solo before Comnixant 3.0, sounding like Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan on steroids, acts as a bridge to the closer The Purge, which rounds the album off in an intimidating and ultra-heavy fashion.
Machinations is a welcome return from HARK, and one that sees the band trim the fat of the first record to get to the core of their message. Clocking in at a decidedly manageable 47 minutes, this 9 track album never out stays its welcome meaning that you’ll be reaching for the Play button again as soon as it’s finished.
Having dealt with personal trauma and substance abuse issues, Isaacs has come back stronger and more focused, determined to take the band’s sludge template and make a record that equals or tops their Crystalline debut.
The addition of the extra instrumental muscle means that the guitar has more substance and a duelling swagger that was only hinted at first time around. The songs themselves have grown from live jams and organic interplay between the members that lends a vibrant authenticity to their delivery that is contrasted only by the brooding artwork accompanying the release. Once again, this is penned by the frontman, its vivid style matching the dystopian effect on our species that the lyrical output serves as a commentary on; a dark dysfunctional paranoia and inability to connect as human beings, not only with ourselves but also with the world in which we inhabit.
HARK’s sophomore record is simply a great album and should be embraced as such.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden