In my home country Wales or Cymru as it is known here, there is an […]
By Darren "Dread" Bissette
March 27, 2014
Hark - Crystalline album cover

In my home country Wales or Cymru as it is known here, there is an ancient old legend about two Dragons who go to battle, one is colored Red representing Wales / Cymru and the other being White representing the old invading English. As the fable or legend goes the Red Dragon defeats the White, to then vanish underground to the core of the land to slumber until its next calling to rise again in protection and representation of its people.

The Welsh HARK share a not too dissimilar story as the trio of musicians make their return to fly the flag of the Red Dragon once again rising from the remnants and ashes of the celebrated Heavy Rockers TAINT. This second calling is the handy work of front man Jimbob Isaac who is the main creator and writer for the band. "Crystalline" is the first full length release by HARK and is cleverly mixed by Kurt Ballon of CONVERGE fame. Ballon has managed to take the bands dirty gritty sound and given it crystal clarity on the production which has created something that sounds very new and fresh yet remains nostalgic and familiar. The excellently detailed artwork for this debut release was designed by front man Jimbob who is a highly acclaimed and celebrated graphic artist in our home land.

The album opens with "Palendromeda" which arrives rumbling with anticipation to open up the dirtiest sound your likely to come across, heavy blatantly filthy riffs that give it to you straight. Shifting into a hybrid of progressive punk with technical hooks that would perk up any MASTODON fan out there, Jimbob's vocals are grit filled harmony and chants of angst adding power, poise and intent. The deep and intentional "Hounded by Callous Decree" is up next with its convincingly angry sound that has a Punk influence refined by technical movements and a heavy swagger. It shouts at you and takes you for one hell of a dirty ride into the core of the band. The groovy and Southern sounding "Sins of Sleeves" has a real live organic sound to it, dirty grooves that run at a mid to slow tempo that drags you through their rough gritty dust. The pulverizing and pounding rhythms back up the angst ridden vocals which are enhanced by some great lead guitar work that's necessary and welcomed by the ear, with a flash back to the nostalgic and familiar old school solo.

As dark as Welsh Coal "Black Hole South West" is solid and heavy with the sound of despair, brutal darkness comes with some real Welsh pronunciation and accent heard in the use of the English language. The vocal line sings about "domestic skeletons" which conjures up thoughts of some dark moments in my Countries history, as a Welsh man I am reminded of the financial battering and ruin of South Wales during the closures of the coal mines which buckled and devastated the lives of many Welsh families down in the Valleys of the South. Galloping forward with serious intent "Breathe and Run" stomps and stampedes into off beat bliss that's very early BLACK SABBATH esq. Moody and grim with a heavy early 70's influence and origin that's been cleverly produced and mixed with an up to date 21st century sound of clarity combined with grimy dirt, working together beautifully. This is nostalgic and familiar with that old school warm brown sound of the valves ripping through the sound waves. "Mythopeia" grooves and glides with dirty prowess, this is filthy Metal with shades of Progressive Punk that gets right into your skin covering you in grime. Pounding rhythm and a vocal line that reminds me of early AT THE DRIVE IN however this comes with much more grit, wild and angry yet technically organized.

The scruffy heavy Grunge like "Scarlet Extremities" smacks of ALICE IN CHAINS during the Lane Staley era, and by that I don't mean the vocals in particular just the composition and structure is very similar to the some of the feeling and moods created on their epic album "Dirt". Stumbling beats are driven forward by dirty guitars that deeply wail and moan lazily, grinding the atmosphere to create a dragging sound that's done superbly. The vocal screams and harsh harmonies by Jimbob are the perfect enhancement to this familiar wall of noise. "All Wretch no Vomit" let's be honest most of us have been there haven't we? Grungy and full of groove this song takes me back to SOUNDGARDEN's "Down on the Upside" album, well the last half of it at least. It has that kind of illness that's distorted a hazy headed feeling of nausea runs throughout the music combined with determined vocal gritty shouts. The short and strange "Xtal 0.6" sounds like a very good sounding band warming up for a creative jam session and ends as promptly as it arrives. The last track on this grime filled release is "Clear Light of...." which is filled with dirty riffs, off beat rhythms and some very clever technical arrangements. Passionate gritty hard vocals shout out its content and again there are definite tones of MASTODON happening here.

Earthy honest and sincere with a very live organic feel to it "Crystalline" is a determined effort and a great display that should ensure that Wales is well and truly placed back on to the Global Metal map. The core of this album has some amazing moments of cleverly organized chaos and dirty grooves that will, I'm sure, ensnare you into satisfaction however reluctant some you might be to praise something that's a new spin on some old school classic genres.

8 / 10


"Crystalline" Track-listing:

1. Palendromeda
2. Hounded by Callous Decree
3. Sins on Sleeves
4. Black Hole South West
5. Breathe and Run
6. Mythopoeia
7. Scarlet Extremities
8. All Wretch no Vomit
9. Xtal 0.6
10. Clear Light of......

Hark Lineup:

Jimbob Isaac - Vocals, Guitars
Nikolai Ribnikov - Bass
Simon Bonwick - Drums

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