REVIEW: Harem Scarem – Voice of Reason (1995 Japanese import)

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.

2.5/5 stars

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31 comments

        1. No kidding eh? I wonder which one. There are two other guys. Barry Donahy was the second bassist and Creighton Doane was the second drummer (brother of celtic artist Melanie Doane). The original drummer is now singing with Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

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  1. Very cool review MIke! This is an album I never heard, but now I wanna. 1995… this would’ve been after I saw them live, but just.

    At the very least, I should get a Hits set of their stuff! I also like the sounds of that bonus acoustic track – lucky Japanese fans!

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  2. When I stepped in to a record store in Stockholm back in 1993, the owner had just got a couple of copies of Mood Swings. Me, I had never even heard of the name Harem Scarem before, but I bought that album right there and then after just hearing the first half of Saviours Never Die. I have loved that album ever since.
    To say I was disappointed by this when it came out is an understatement by large. This album alone made me lose interest in Harem Scarem and before they released the awesome Thirteen last year, I had hardly heard anything by the band after VOR. Well, I have burned copies of some albums, but even though I liked some of them, they didn’t punch me out at all.
    That said, I have gone through their backcatalogue now and there are som really great albums there. The debut is brilliant, Karma Kleansing, Human Nature and Higher are all really good albums. I think I have to see if I can find them cheap somewhere.
    This album still sucks, though and its biggest problem as far as I’m concerened is that it sounds desperate, desperate to keep up with the trends. In my aears, this is an alternative album with grunge influences. Suits them really bad, I’m afraid.

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    1. Jon, here in Canada I had the chance to follow Harem Scarem more closely. I thought that Karma Cleansing was a “comeback” in many respects. I am also quite fond of Big Bang Theory. It has shorter more pop oriented songs on it, but some of them are my favourites by this band. “So Blind” and “Climb the Gate” are two amazing songs from this period.

      In Canada they changed their name to Rubber for two albums. Maybe even three albums. Weight of the World thought was another return to form.

      These guys have been so prolific that I have no problem forgiving them for three or four crappy albums over the last 25 years.

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      1. Big Bang Theory was an ok album, but that Rubber one, that was crap. What happened there? Were they trying to be a new Blink 182 or something?
        Sweden Rock should book this band!

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        1. Dude that’s it exactly. I think Sum 41 and those bands were popular and they went that way. Cutting down guitar solos, keeping it to the melody…that’s what I think happened.

          I have a very old Amazon review of the second Rubber album, which I strongly dislike. I should polish it up and post it.

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        1. I have Hope. I also have two Harry Hess side projects — one called Hess that sounds basically like Harem Scarem, and one early band…I can’t remember the damned name! It’s gonna be hard for me to look it up in my collection if I can’t remember the name of the damn band! But they were pre-Harem Scarem and more metal. Blind Vengeance? I wanna say Blind Vengeance. I have to go look and see if I’m right.

          YEP! Blind Vengeance. Harry looks all of 15 years old on the cover!

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        2. I got the Hess albums as well. I downloaded a file with all the HS albums and that included the two Hess albums as well. I just haven’t got a around to listen to them yet. But there are a bunch of HS records I’d like to buy if I could find them cheap somewhere.
          Their name was Blind Vengeance. I read an interview with Hess just recently and he spoke of BV there.
          Have you heard First Signal? It’s a Frontiers Records project that Harry Hess sings on. Great album.

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        3. I have not heard First Signal. Does Harry sing on all of it or just part?

          I’ll keep my eyes peeled for some Harem Scarem for you, for that parcel I need to mail.

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    1. So you call me out on Harem Scarem, but you don’t call Aaron out on Dayglo Abortions?

      Both are real Canadian bands though!

      For other obscure and funny Canadian names:
      Kick Axe, Cherry Smash, Killer Dwarfs, and of course Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet!

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