Hark – MachinationsI love music that takes chances. Those chances can be a myriad of elements: fusing disparate styles, unexpected arrangements (or non-arrangements), unique vocal delivery, you name it. Despite the fact that I love olde-school metal as much as the next Druhm, take a chance in your music and you’ll at least garner a close listen from the Huckster. While I hadn’t heard Hark’s debut LP, 2014’s Crystalline, the promo blurb for Machinations drew me in. I’ll paraphrase: “Progressive, muscular, sludge-infused hard rock.” I like all of the above, and I suspect that if done right, and coupled with singer/guitarist Jimbob Isaac’s “soaring and gritty” lead vocals, this album might be a bright light in an otherwise gloomy February.

Machinations charges out of the gate with “Fortune Favours the Insane,” a galloping number with a twin guitar riff, big, thunderous verses, and a few guttural “uhs” to let us know how heavy the band is. The thickness of the drums and riffs harkens back to Isaac’s first band, the sludgy Taint, but the songwriting and arrangements here are more varied. As the promo suggested, it is indeed some combination of prog and sludge. “Disintegrate” and “Premonitions” are similarly styled, up-tempo and complex, and the addition of lead guitarist Joe Harvatt is a boon. Harvatt’s got some fine chops, and compared to Isaac he’s also got some solid tone coming out of his amps.

“Speak in Tongues” is one of the standout tracks here, opening with a ponderous, complex riff that moves into relatively quieter verses. Hark know how to arrange their songs, keeping things interesting and varied at all times. “Son of Pythagoras” and album closer “The Purge” follow a similar suit, mid-paced numbers with some heavy riffing and compelling lead work, although the latter could have been cut down from its nine-minute length. Aside from the short instrumental “Comnixant 3-0” that leads into “The Purge,” there really isn’t much to dislike on Machinations, but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t without fault.

Hark 2017

I have two problems with Machinations, and the first occurs two seconds in, when the guitar fires up for “Fortune Favours the Insane.” Massive clipping, which drives me batshit, is the order of the day, and exists throughout the album. While we don’t technically see a horrible DR score upon measurement, our ears tell a different and more important story. Everything is squashed together into a mush of sound. This is the opposite of a dynamic album. The mix has all the subtlety of a flying mallet [If you can dodge a flying mallet, you can dodge a ball.Steel “Patches” Druhm]. The rhythm guitars sound like they are constantly clipping (maybe they aren’t: maybe Isaac just likes horrible tone), and the drums have no shape or character to them. Listen to the beginning of “Nine Fates:” the snare drum is so far back in the mix it sounds like it’s in a different room. Hark are going for sludgy production on Machinations, but the music calls for better.

My second beef with the record is more of a minor quibble compared to the production, and that is Jimbob Isaac’s one-dimensional singing. Sorry, promo blurb: his voice is NOT “soaring and gritty.” It’s grating and monotonous, and after 47 minutes of the guy shouting at me (coupled with the lousy overall aural experience) I’m ready to go to my quiet space for some alone time. It’s a shame, really, because if one peels back the stinky onionskin layers of poor production and spit-in-your-face vocals, Machinations is chock full of really strong songs. They’re just suffocating under the weight of these issues. Hark need to decide who they are: they ain’t Taint, so they shouldn’t try to sound like it. The songs deserve more.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: harkofficial.bandcamp.com | harkband.com| facebook.com/harktheband
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • Absolomb

    Excellent review. I noticed the production wasn’t it’s strength but I’ve had no problem with the monotonous vocals what so ever. I think I was busy having tons of fun with this one to notice many flaws.

  • herrschobel

    enjoyed Crystalline quite a bit….and they were spectecular live in Bristol…you are spot on about the production…everything at the same time way too loud…go see them live if you can…they will probably make up for this mess …

  • Dethjesta

    I listened to this the other day for the first time, on a recommendation. I thought it rather good. Agree with the vocals, not the most engaging vocal style, still nice groovy riffs.

  • …isn’t this nu metal? I swear this song is on the crow soundtrack

  • robpal

    I quite enjoy this one, I’d give it a 3,5 for some nicely crafted, catchy riffing. February was a good month for sludge/stoner music with very solid releases by Hark, Siberian and Palmer (the last one unfortunately didn’t make it to the AMGs review bucket).

  • EnslavedEld73

    You guys are too picky; I like the vocals. The production? Not so much.

  • GardensTale

    Spot on, the vocals are definitely not the strongest and this production is giving me a headache. Good riffs but not enough to make we want to push for a migraine.

  • AndySynn

    I actually found the vocals so off-putting I couldn’t even bring myself to review this one. They weren’t just monotonous, I honestly felt like they were off-key quite a few times.

    Shame.

  • Zach Ward

    This ain’t bad, decent at the very least. Season of Mist is easily becoming one of my favorite labels. Great bands coming from them left and right, it’s terrific!!

  • naoto

    Checked the embedded tune. Not bad, nor brilliant. Pros: very good attitude and nice riffs&grooves; cons; poor production, poor vocals, not-so-good-blended arrangements. The overall impression is “entertaining”.

  • Eli Valcik

    Riffs-3.5/5 or maybe even a 4. But the Vocals seriously hold this record back.

  • Lipsy

    I loved Crystalline….hopefully this one matches up :)

  • contenderizer

    <>

    No other press kit cliche so reliably foretells complete fucking suckage.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Jimbob? Really?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The embedded track could have been named “Southern Mastodon”. It really sounds like a 50-50 mix of early Mastodon and Alabama Thunderpussy.