HAREM SCAREM – Voice of Reason (1995 WEA Japan)
Voice Of Reason marked the end of an era for Harem Scarem. It’s the last album by the original lineup before Mike Gionet departed, and the band got huge in Japan. I always found it difficult to understand how their home country of Canada could leave them obscure while the Japanese couldn’t get enough of them. In-the-know melodic hard rock fans point to Harem Scarem’s 1993 album, Mood Swings, as a high water mark for the band and genre. Although the band stretched out far and wide, Mood Swings remained the album that fans pined a return to. Voice of Reason had the difficult task of following that album. Harem Scarem had to both take it up a notch, and retain what made them great at the same time. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
Mood Swings had a slightly progressive edge to its hard rock, with lush multitracked Queen-like harmonies and a diverse set of influences. They turned that up on Voice of Reason, attempting to become more Queen-like it seems. More vocal harmonies, more guitar layers and flourishes, more complex song structures. Those are all good qualities. I think one could do a lot worse than to be compared to Queen. But Harem Scarem weren’t able to summon forth another batch of perfect hard rock songs to go with it.
Although the direction this time out is mellower and more ballad-oriented, none of the tunes are particularly bad. You would not listen to Voice of Reason and point out bad songs. Instead it just goes through your brain like a foggy haze, without really retaining any of it. Perhaps they went too far with the layered vocals. This was self-produced so there would be nobody there to reel it in. There are still a few standouts, which are “Warming A Frozen Rose”, “Blue”, “Breathing Sand”, and “I’ll Be Brief”. These tracks are more memorable and stand out a little from the others.
The music video for “Blue” didn’t help matters.
MVP: Guitarist Pete Lesperance is the band’s Nuno Bettencourt. He is a skilled, creative player able to make his guitar do seemingly anything he needs it too. The wah-wah he throws into chorus of “Warming a Frozen Rose” helps make the song, and his shredding everywhere else is top drawer.
Those lucky fans in Japan got a bonus track on their version of the CD. “Candle (acoustic version)” is actually superior to the regular album version by being a little more unique and memorable. Very cool bonus track.