Say hello to the best metal record of 2006. It belongs to Harlots, and after countless spins of the disc, I can unequivocally say it's a title they more than deserve.
Equal parts unrelenting fury and masterful musicianship, the band is also able to incorporate a fair amount of ambient and instrumental sounds into their attack, and more importantly for this type of music, not have it at all sound like a gimmick.
You don't see it too often. First of all, a metal band that isn't all about gratuitous solos and inability to write an actual song, but second, a band that can fluidly and effortlessly incorporate some great instrumental moments into their sound without losing steam or losing credibility. Harlots have both on lockdown, and they'll damn sure let you know it straight from the get-go.
Harnessing all that rage and technical ability that I mentioned earlier, "These Are the Paths That We Choose" is a veritable 'perfect storm' of vocals, guitars, and drums. This three-piece is so well in tune with each other that even the quickest of starts, stops, lightning-fast changes in tempo or distortion fail to take anything away at all. Some of guitarist Eric Dunn's riffs are so quick that your head needs to be on a swivel to catch everything coming out of the speakers. The band simply knows when to turn it up a few notches, and when to let the subtle ambience take hold and give a brief, albeit necessary reprieve. "Moments of Desperation" is only a minute-and-a-half of soundscapes, but that short allotment of time allows the band to set up for "These Days Seem Several Hundred Years Ago," another vocal-less track, but this time the drums, guitar, and bass are not forgotten. A slow but effective crescendo builds until the band is read to rage once more, and rage is what they'll do. "Remote Coagulation" features a band going in 30 different directions, while still managing to all be anchored to the exact same spot. The quick time changes and bursts of vocals absolutely shred, and even in their more slowed-down portions, there's a wall of sound as tall as the sky that manages to catch everything in front of it, only building and building off itself until a melodic undercurrent takes the slowed down vocals to the very top of that wall.
No matter how good the beginning of an album is, if it can't be closed in a solid fashion, the buildup meant nothing. Harlots succeed there as well, offering their best foray into the post-rock genre with "Fall of the Matriarch." The gorgeous track begins with a slowly recycled drum fill and some shimmering guitar, before ever-so-slowly intensifying, until that shimmering guitar tone becomes awash in a sea of dissonance and pounding fills. They were able to really pack a lot into that four minutes, showing their talent and versatility just the same.
No weaknesses, no complaints. It's that simple.