Thursday, 23 April 2015

We are Harlot's 'We are Harlot' - Album Review

This is one of those albums that I happened to stumble upon. I forget quite how I did, but something made me take to Youtube to listen to a couple of their songs - and I was impressed! I rushed out buy the album the next day, and I am glad I did as I have been enjoying a lot over the past couple of weeks. We are Harlot were formed in 2011 by Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria) and Jeff George (Sebastian Bach) but nothing ever really came of the band until last year when the band performed live for the first time and released the single Denial. Due to frontman Worsnop's previous employment, I am surprised that I even gave this band a chance. I detest the world of screamo/deathcore that Asking Alexandria occupy, and their core sound is a far-cry from the 1980s-inspired hard rock that We are Harlot play. Some delving however reveals that I might have been a little harsh on Asking Alexandria. I remember quite liking their 2014 single Moving On, which was a power ballad of Bryan Adams proportions; and some research shows they have released EPs where they covered songs by bands like Skid Row and Whitesnake. The hard rock influence was clearly always present with Asking Alexandria, even if they chose not to show it very often. In We are Harlot however, that 1980s influence is brought right to the fore. Worsnop and George, joined by bassist Brian Weaver (Silvertide) and drummer Bruno Agra (Revolution Renaissance), have created a fresh rock album that takes the best from all those classic 1980s bands and brings it into the 21st Century. This self-titled album does not sound dated at all, it sounds modern, but it keeps the spirit of the 1980s alive within. I wonder how Worsnop's existing fans will take to this band, as it a big change from Asking Alexandria - who he has now left. He does use some harsh vocals throughout this album, but they are used very sparingly. When he does however, they are always to good effect and really benefit the song as a whole. He is certainly the biggest name in the band, and will probably bring in many fans from his Asking Alexandria days. It will be good for these people to hear a band so clearly influenced by the great bands of the 1980s, and it is great for people like me to see new bands fully embracing that style and spirit.

The album opens with snappy single Dancing on Nails which is cloaked in a swathe of synthesisers and simple rock riffs. It is a catchy little song which sees Worsnop display his slightly gravelly vocal talents with ease as he negotiates some poppy vocal melodies. George's guitar work is solid throughout, and includes a small solo towards the end. At just over two and half minutes long, the song is over quickly, but it pulls you in and leads nicely into the next tune. Dirty Little Thing has a slightly punky feel, with a certain urgency in the verses that lead into a stellar chorus that Worsnop owns with his melodic voice. This song reminds me of another modern rock band, The Treatment, who's material is similar in vein to this with a punky attitude tied up in melodic hooks. Agra never stops throughout this song, thrashing his kit as if his life depended on it; and George lets rip towards the end with a fluid solo. Someday is more of a mid-paced number, something that is noticeable after two fast songs. The verses are based around a simple clean guitar line and Worsnop's pop-friendly vocals. I would say that this song is a ballad, and the chorus packs quite an emotional punch with some heartfelt vocals and a solid instrumental backing from the rest of the band. This song is perfectly placed in the album, and breaks up the frenzy after the first two songs, and shows early on that We are Harlot can do more than just one thing. Denial is the first song the band released, and gets back to the hard rock of the opening couple of numbers. Despite a mellower intro, the song really rocks with a strong verse that sees Worsnop use his harsh vocal talents sparingly, and a soaring chorus which has a very strong glam rock feel with big melodies and plenty of harmony vocals. More of the harsh vocals come back later on for a breakdown, which leads perfectly into an explosive solo from George that shows he is a great player for this sort of band. Easier to Leave has driving piano throughout the main riff (there are keyboards all over this album but it is not clear from the CD booklet who plays them!) which gives it a great feel. This song is very summery, with an extremely bright-sounding chorus that eases out of the speakers. It is quite a poppy song, and would probably make a good single in the future to bring in new fans from outside the obvious rock spectrum. This is quite a contrast to One More Night which has a very strong Mötley Crüe feel with a grungy riff and a snarling vocal. I would not be surprised if this song was influenced by George's time with Sebastian Bach, and I can imagine him singing this song too. People who like ballsy 1980s hard rock are sure to like this song, and it brings the album back on the rock track after Easier to Leave's poppier tones.

Never Turn Back is not the album's best song. It opens with a half-screamed section that sounds like it should have been on an Asking Alexandria album, and the rest of the song just does not inspire like the rest of the material here. Even the guitar solo has a strange sound to it, almost like something Trent Reznor would include on a Nine Inch Nails album to shock. For me this song just does not really work, despite a few strong vocal melodies during the sung parts. The One is an improvement. Opening with a heavy, bluesy riff, the song is based around a slightly funky rhythm which is helped by some subtle keyboard lines that sit well underneath George's guitar. Again, this is quite a summery song with lots of catchy wordless vocal sections that get suck in your head for days. Love for the Night gets the album back onto it's early rocking track. A simple piano riff helps to drive the song, and the song boasts an explosive chorus which shows Worsnops vocal talents perfectly. This a really good example of what the band is about, and is a great slab of modern hard rock. Flying too Close to the Sun is a heavier tune, but it works just as well. Opening with a powerful bassline from Weaver, the song races along with some mechanical riffing from George and some really raspy vocals from Worsnop. Despite the heavier overall mood of the song, it is still very catchy with plenty of soaring vocal melodies and powerful harsh vocals in places. It also has probably the album's best guitar solo, and sees George really show off with some fast licks. This is one of the album's best songs in my opinion, and it shows that the band can be heavy without losing any of their 1980s feel. The album comes to an end with the ballad I Tried. The vocal performance is strong here, and the keyboard/acoustic guitar backing is the perfect accompaniment. It is probably the only true 'lighters in the air' moment on the whole album, and it works nicely to close the album. While this is not the best ballad you will ever hear, it certainly has the right feel to it and helps give the album a certain level of dynamics, and breaks up the barrage of rock riffing. Overall, We are Harlot is impressive debut album from a new band and one that I will be enjoying a lot in the coming months. It is always great to see a modern band playing this type of music well, and it is even better seeing a musician come out of the screamo scene and create something this good. One to watch out for!

The album was released on 30th March 2015 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Dancing on Nails.

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