Hark – Machinations (Season of Mist)Tuesday, 28th February 2017
Metal loves a good second chance. Ozzy got his after leaving Black Sabbath; same goes for Ronnie James Dio after Rainbow, then Black Sabbath, which technically would be a third chance. Then there’s Mustaine starting Megadeth after leaving Metallica; Kai Hansen jumpstarting Gamma Ray after bolting Helloween, and Matt Pike launching High on Fire after Sleep’s demise. Put James “Jimbob” Harris on the list as well. The man fronted ahead-of-its time U.K. stoner/sludge practitioners Taint throughout the ’90s and ’00s, only for the band to fold in 2010. He subsequently launched Hark the same year, with 2014’s Crystalline serving as their debut. After a shakeup in the ranks, Hark is back with their sophomore album, Machinations.
Functioning as a “heavy rock” band, Hark is part riff-rock glory/other part sludge mongers. Harris has always had an excellent voice, superior to that of many of his contemporaries who are inclined to sub-grumble their way through things (see: Mastodon, Neurosis, and a dozen other inferior bands of the same thread). In turn, Harris is the main melodic cog in otherwise simple and basic cuts like “Nine Fates” and the somewhat Mastodon-like “Speak in Tongues,” which is the strongest song of the bunch.
As is the case with such bands, the regular volume-over-feel and dynamics ends up being a rather high hurdle to cross. The voluminous, albeit basic riffs found throughout the album can be a bear, only bailed out by occasional bits of psychedelia. This means Hark is probably the band that will blow your speakers live, yet in the confines of focused, if not casual listening, fall short.