Album Review: Harbour Sharks – A History Of Violence

Having been our New Band of the Week back in June I’ve been excited about the potential of Kingston-upon-Thames trio Harbour Sharks for a while now. But the debut album released by Jack Morris (vocals and bass), Rob Rees (guitars) and Richard Hemley (drums) yesterday is even more special than I was expecting.

I was well aware of their big chunky rock-meets-metal sound that they themselves loosely pin as melodic-metalcore. But debut album A History of Violence sees the band deliciously refine that heavy influence with a sound that now and again jumps into bordering on pop-punk.

A History of Violence begins in promising fashion with the huge guitar riffs that introduce opening track False Flags. Chunky low-tuned guitars give way to a bouncing riff then we fly into a fast-paced opening verse, which ends on lingering guitars and a cry of “The clock keeps tick tick ticking” then flies into a fast-paced chorus followed by a return of the bouncy riff. A mini bass filler is followed by a cool guitar riff that feeds into the second verse, which gradually builds in intensity and flows into a second chorus. Ominous sounding guitars linger above palm-muted guitars, then strained shouted vocals are followed by a brief moment of calm before a big chunky riff feeds into a final rendition of the chorus, then ends on a couple of big bouncy guitar riffs. It’s an awesome way to open the album, and you can check it out in the video below:

The fast pace continues in fantastic second track The Killer Inside Me, which opens with high-pitched staccatoed guitar chords, then drops down into low-tuned guitars that roll into an opening verse that combines clean vocals and screams. The screamed lyrics “I’ll put you out, I’ll fucking shut you down, We’re dangerous, don’t mess with us, don’t ever doubt” lead into a more singalong chorus. The singing-meets-screams typify the intense nature of Harbour Sharks, while the catchy, hugely enjoyable chorus hints at their more melodic side. Check it out in the video below:

That more melodic side comes to the fore in It’s Not Working Out, which opens with the somewhat disturbingly relaxed vocals “Tell me why the fuck it’s not working out, And tell me why the hell would you care, ‘Cos these things have a habit of working out, So tell me why the fuck are you here” supported by light guitars and drums. A huge wall of guitar noise follows and sets up heavier vocals through the opening verse and a faster pop-punky chorus. A heavier breakdown of chunky guitars gradually builds towards a repeat of the relaxed opening line followed by a final rendition of the singalong chorus.

Next Swing Away, Merrill opens with driving drums and more of the pop-punk influence with punky chords and fast-paced vocals through the opening verse, supported by cool darting guitar riffs, building to a singalong chorus. Bursts of heavier guitars are littered throughout the track, including a cool low-tuned burst before the final chorus.

The heaviness is ramped up in album title track A History of Violence, which opens up with heavy bursts of guitar supporting screamed vocals followed by an awesome bouncy guitar riff. A fast-paced verse of big vocals follows ending on the lyrics “I’m sick, I’m sick, Th family’s broken, Some things that therapy just can’t cure.” Then the pace drops down for a call of “I think I’ve found the antidote” which is the cue for more screamed vocals and the return of the bouncy riff through the chorus. A cool prolonged breakdown of heavy guitar bursts and screamed vocals is followed by a chorus which ends on increasingly intense screams, then a big rockout to bring the track to an end.

The angst levels reach maximum in the 57-second romp that is the Brexit-themed, brilliantly titled Vulva. Kicking off with screams of “You’ve got some fucking nerve,” more screamed vocals build towards the more singalong vocals: “You want your country back, It was never taken away, I’d love to see your faces, When you vacate your places, What’s more ridiculous than arguing about races?” The song then brilliantly ends on the matter of fact, no fucks given closing line: “Everything about you is such a stunt, That’s what makes you nothing but a bunch of cunts” – on which there’s a delicious, emphatic echo.

Penultimate track Burn Down London is a great portrayal of Harbour Sharks’ pop-punk influence and again shows the political influences that drives their writing. It opens with a quick drum roll and punky high-pitched guitar riff alongside the opening line and chorus lyrics: “Tonight we’ll burn down London, let’s watch it go to waste” then the infectious singalong vocals “We’re singing London’s burning.” A quick burst of guitar chords, then a mini loops of palm-muted guitar feed into the opening verse “Politics don’t give me confidence, So disillusioned so that nothing makes much sense, Unsociable irrational impractical, I second guess myself as if I’m calling out for help,” followed by a repeat of the opening vocals. A high-pitched pop-punk guitar solo follows, then the pace drops down and a building section beginning “Burn it down to the fucking ground” with palm-muted guitars ends with a big punky outro.

The album ends with the dark themed Abandon All Hopes, which alludes to the mental and physical abuse Jack previously told us he suffered from his stepdad. It begins in slow brooding fashion with lingering guitars over the vocals “I never had the chance to grow or ask the reasons why, I’ve always found it hard to show how I really felt inside, The pain is real, It’s ripping away at an innocent boy, The rage I feel is breaking me down, Abandon all hope.” The guitars kick in heavier as the dark lyrics continue, followed by a fast-paced heavier guitar riff, then ends in Morris’ vocals “Father where are you now, Our cause you’ve abandoned, You left your daughter, You left your son, Your family, You only had one.”

It ends on a sombre note, but this is a superb debut album chocked full of big guitar riffs and engaging vocals that’ll tick the boxes of metalheads and punk-rockers alike.

And in the words of Harbour Sharks themselves: “These songs are riffy, aggressive and have big choruses. This album reflects the personal struggles we’ve been through the last few years and also how we feel about the divides in our society. We’ve been influenced by metal, hardcore and pop-punk which is evident throughout the album and we can’t wait to play these songs live.”

You can see the songs for yourself over the next month with Harbour Sharks playing The Attic in Ashford tonight (28 October), then The Fighting Cocks in their hometown Kingston on 10 November, followed by what promises to be a great night of heavy punk at The Crowndale Club in London on 19 November, alongside another of our former New Bands of the Week Tirade.

A History of Violence is out now and available on Bandcamp and Spotify. You can follow Harbour Sharks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and check out their music on YouTube and Spotify.

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