Monday, 2 April 2018

Album Review: No Discordance by Harker

Harker seem to have been around for ages now and you'll probably agree that they've become a well established name in the UK punk rock scene in the last few years. The four piece from Brighton started out as an acoustic act before becoming a fully blown electric band that draws influence from bands such as The Gaslight Anthem, Dave Hause/The Loved Ones, Alkaline Trio and The Bouncing Souls. It's quite a surprise that they've only just released their debut full length after a handful of very well received EPs and singles. Titled No Discordance and released by Disconnect Disconnect Records, Future Void, Shield Recordings, Fond Of Life Records, Wiretap Records and Fixing A Hole in February, this was one I've been waiting for for a long time.

No Discordance begins with Station Approach. Immediately we are greeted with lead singer Mark Boniface's unmistakable vocals. It doesn't take long for this new, completely electric version of Harker to kick in and from the outset I know I am going to love this album. This is melodic indie punk at its finest. The tempo of the track makes it a superb opener and will have you singing along in no time at all. Plague Your Heart quickly shows off Harker's Bouncing Souls influence. Phoebe's bass really stands out at the beginning of the song really making me think of a certain Bryan Kienlen. The whole beginning of the song has this brilliantly driving build that really sets the main portion of the song. This is a fantastically crafted song with all the great builds, poignant lyrics and beautifully layered harmonies. The third song, Black Dog, is an indie punk song about trying to change your ways to be with someone but ultimately not being able to due to problems with mental health. The song is lacking the energy that the previous two songs had but is filled with a heartfelt emotion. There are again some superb harmonies on the song that fills it out and adds another dimension.

300 Cigarettes picks the energy back up excellently. After a slow start we are then treated to a full blown melodic punk future classic. Once we get going, there is absolutely no looking back with seemingly everything being turned up to eleven. I was kind of surprised by how well Mark's vocal works with this style, the speed and tempo of the music really adds to the urgency in his voice. The opening of the fifth song, Nancy Downs, immediately had me thinking of Teenage Bottlerocket, not a sound I really expected to hear on No Discordance. It turns out that Mark's voice also works extremely well with that style as well. I wonder how well it works with a death metal sound? Nancy Downs is about having that person who always tries to better themselves and in doing so manages to make things harder. Sometimes you just have to be and accept that that is fine. I really enjoyed the opening guitars on the sixth song, Lower Ground. Tony Ware and Mark have done an exceptional job on the guitar parts through the entire album. I also enjoyed the little Easter egg in the song with a nice little nod to older song Seething. Energy and passion are a common theme on No Discordance and Harker are leaving me breathless and we're only halfway through the album. Caught Up is the album's big anthem. This atmospheric song is the one that you can imagine being absolutely mesmerizing played in a huge arena. The breakdown section, in which the music drops out and Mark's voice shines through, is one of those goosebump moments.

After that beautiful moment, Harker's attention turns back to the punk rock. Some pounding drums and some dirty guitar feedback open up the eighth song, Driving At Night. Driving At Night is about leaving all of your problems behind and running away with the one that you love. This track features a huge chorus that you will latch onto quickly and will sing your heart out to. The penultimate song is titled Sometimes Dead Is Better. The song immediately hooks me with the lyric "no one in this room is elite" and from there I can't wait to see where the song goes. I believe the song is about what it's like being in a DIY punk rock band. Everybody is the same, it can be extremely hard mentally and physically but once you're on the stage you have to forget all of the struggles. I really loved Matt's drumming on the track, he drives the song forward adding some intensity to the song. Last up is Endless Night. This five minute track is largely instrumental other than a more restrained vocal performance. This song really feels like a great bookend to the album, putting a big full stop on things.

No Discordance was well worth the wait. In the past I've often thought that Harker perhaps sound a bit too much like their influences. This certainly isn't the case here, sure there are little nods but this is unmistakably Harker and it's Harker at their very best.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.