REVIEW: HARLOTT – “Extinction”
The Australian thrash metal band Harlott has risen to a certain level of prominence within diehard metal circles over the course of the 21st century, due to a consistent release of material from 2011 onwards beginning with their EP ‘Virus’. Since then the band has released three studio albums, the most recent of which is their 2017 effort ‘Extinction’, which follows on from their earlier records ‘Origin’ and ‘Proliferation’, which were released in 2013 and 2015 respectively. The album is set to be distributed and released by Metal Blade Records and has been mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Kreator, Sepultura, Amon Amarth, Devin Townsend) at Monolith Studios.
The record opens with its title track “Extinction” which stands as a fairly standard almost 6 minute long thrash song with plenty of aggressive double bass and slightly off-kilter time signatures for deliberately timed guitar riffs. The tracks “First World Solutions” and “The Penitent” immediately follow, with the former somehow managing to speed up the tempo of the music even more so than its predecessor at times, while the latter regularly going through the motions in terms of slowing down and speeding up as the song progresses.
So far so good for ‘Extinction’, so hopefully the run of impressive sounding thrash songs continues with the remaining tracks on the new album by Harlott. The first of those is the humorously titled ‘Whore’ that for lack of a better description takes no time flying straight out of the gates with its blend of violently barked vocals from singer/guitarist Andrew Hudson in addition to savagely white hot thrash metal instrumentation. ‘No Past’ takes a more straightforward approaching to the proceedings with a slightly slower sounding rhythm section as opposed to what the previous tracks have put on show. Nonetheless, the track still displays enough quality to justify its inclusion on the album.
‘Conflict Revelation’ is the next track on ‘Extinction’, and something I have to say right now is that for a genre as restrictive as thrash when it comes to what can be done with it, a lot of respect has to be given to Harlott for pushing the boundaries particularly in terms of musicianship and instrumentation. The drumming on this track in particular is astounding – more of this would be fantastic. Without a doubt Harlott are one of the most proficient bands in contemporary thrash in this regard, and are sadly underrated despite this. ‘Better Off Dead’ with its menacing introductory section (think along the lines of the beginning of ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and you’re on the right track) brings a welcome breather before the music picks up the pace again with a healthy amount of gnarly sounding thrash metal.
Obviously at this point we’re getting closer and closer to the end of the record. ‘Violent Conspirator’ brings back the ridiculously fast speed back into the fray, which makes sense, as it is the album’s shortest track so far, clocking in at only 1 minute and 40 seconds in length. ‘And Darkness Brings the Light’, on the other hand, takes an entirely different approach as the over 7 and a half minute long composition can definitely be interpreted as the most expansive fleshing out of the band’s ideas when it comes to the craft of their style of music.
Only a few more tracks left at this point, namely ‘Final Weapon’, ‘Parasite’ and the album closer ‘Epitaph’. The first of the three songs, ‘Final Weapon’, remains true to the accepted thrash formula by relying simply on a violent mix of vocals and instrumentation to create a track that sounds like a speeding train. The guitar solo isn’t too shabby either, it has to be said – ‘Parasite’, like ‘Final Weapon’ retains the familiar musical conventions of thrash which of course is no bad thing when the music is of such a high quality like in this particular instance, and the album’s closing track ‘Epitaph’ changes things up a little differently in its beginning before launching straight into visceral sounding heavy metal with the destructive vocals of Andrew Hudson at the forefront of it all.
While a lot of the thrash bands of the modern era are trying to varying levels of success to expand on the thrash formula and do things a little differently, Harlott’s new album ‘Extinction’ is a contemporary take on what you heard from the 1980s bands. If you dig thrash in general, whether it’s the technicality and aggression of Testament, Exodus and Death Angel that you love or the unrelenting speed of Municipal Waste – it should become one of your favourites of 2017.