Over a course of 13 weeks, Harem Scarem ran a pledge music campaign in support of their new Thirteen opus. And while some people commented on the fact that in the end all pledgers got the regular Frontiers release with one bonus track, even after it was released officially, I personally found it very amusing to follow Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance on their weekly updates. Answering a lot of questions, and also explaining for instance how their signature vocal and guitar parts come to fruition. So when my package finally arrived today, I wasted no time to start listening to the album. Although I already heard it as all people involved were offered a download with both available acoustic bonus tracks a couple of weeks ago!
So how does this hold up when compared to their back catalogue? In my opinion very well, as do practically all of their albums by the way. I do not belong to the people who want them redo Mood Swings time and again, no matter how good that album is. It always pleasures me to listen to the fabulous fretwork of Pete and the voice of Harry. They are a good song writing team and deserve praise for not wanting to look back all the time. The energy pouring from this is great and the album digests really easy. Glad to see they keep carrying on with the band and hope they keep going at it for years to come!
In Thirteen, singer Audrey Lahaije and keyboard player Jeroen van der Wiel (Odyssice) have joined forces. According to the press sheet the main influences are Nightwish, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Pink Floyd, Muse and Marillion. So a cross between old school prog, neo prog, gothic and pop rock with progressive overtones? Well, for sure childhood idol Madonna did not leave a mark on this album. 🙂
In my ears the outcome is a somewhat heavier version of what most will call neo prog. In that aspect they are more close to Arena. The bombastic metal typical for the Gothic genre probably needs a more massive production to show itself. Yet, the keyboard arrangements sometimes have a modern flavour, with sequenced parts that move across the speakers. The music is well arranged and executed, with lots of variation, some great guitar solos, beautiful piano parts, good and solid rhythmic support, and so on. In the more peaceful moments like the opening of Just Leave or Arabian Nights, Audrey convinces with an emotional delivery. In the more heavy parts I sometimes felt she sounded somewhat insecure as her voice seemed less solid.
Well I hope that over time the experience and confidence will grow, as she shows a lot of talent.
So another promising debut from this new Dutch contender and surely one worth checking out.