Harkonen – Shake Harder Boy – 3/5
Sludge often relies on two main things to make its mark: firstly is the thick, downtrodden atmosphere, as though slowly pushing onwards through the barrage of sound, and secondly is simple but effective guitar lines that sink their teeth into you and refuse to let go. There is often a hostility or animosity that comes across as a result of both these factors making it perhaps aptly described as ‘working mans metal,’ and whilst Harkonen have far from abandoned the essentials for the style, it doesn’t really succeed in doing either in a manner that feels like its anything more than re-treading old ground.
Doing what’s required of them, much of their aggression comes from the drumming which whilst not quick, has a thick and raw position in the end production, often lending a gorgeous aggressive pounding beat to the track at hand, if sadly doing little else. The guitars do little to lower the bar either with an array of slow yet hard hitting chord sequences with excellent use of feedback and other elements, the occasional simple riff layered on top of the thick sound created by the bass guitar lending some variety but more often than not spent in forming the rhythm.
The result may well have fared better if the lyrics weren’t at times all too painfully apparent; the jock humour in the titles continued in poor fashion with many of the lyrics; the chant in “Settle Here” of ‘It Fucking Wont’ slowly morphing in my mind to ‘I Fucking Won’ and then to ‘I’m Fuckin’ Kwan,’ (whether advocating gay rights for Asians, being pessimistic, or exclaiming his joy at a good night’s bingo is never really made apparent). His monotone yell does nothing to improve on this either, failing to feel as anything more than a lack of comprehension for what the volume button on his microphone is there for.
But its not even that its all done particularly badly – I’ve always maintained that with sludge its very difficult to go too far wrong – but it also means you need to step up in order to distinguish yourself from all the others, have your own twist or take on the genre to make yourself known, and sadly this fails to do that. There are some great psychedelic passages (the end of ‘Baristas…’ or the intro for ‘We’ve come for your daughter’ demonstrating this) but they aren’t integrated into the music; it feels like little more than a stopgap between the main body of the music and rather than lending a welcome break from the grinding normality, as though we’re just waiting for things to kick in again. It’ll hit you hard the first time around, but it sadly wears thin all too soon.