Oh, Canada. The country that (for better or for worse) brought us Rush, Honeymoon Suite, Corey Hart and Celine Dion now provides America and the rest of the world with what will perhaps be one of the best hard rock albums of 2002. Weight of the World, the long-anticipated fifth studio record from Toronto's chameleon rockers Harem Scarem - it's the band's seventh, if you count the two alternative-pop discs they released under the name Rubber - pounds with intense melodies, passionate anger and riveting vocal performances that will wear out your CD player's "Repeat" button. This album is that good.
Harem Scarem broke out of Canada in the early Nineties with their first two albums (the self-titled pop-metal debut and the heavier and much-acclaimed Mood Swings), and began building a strong following in Europe and Japan. The quartet's instantly recognizable sound blends Pete Lesperance's chunky guitar riffs with Harry Hess' deep-throated vocals, which effectively cross Don Dokken with Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer. One Harem Scarem album has never sounded like another, in part because the band eventually dropped some of its traditional hard-rock elements and headed toward territory occupied by the likes of Marvelous 3 and SR-71. On Weight of the World, the band combines the best of its melodic and heavier past with its darker and more-modern sound.
Weight of the World's all-over-the-place opening title track sets the tone for what's to come. And although the album never reaches the thickness of that track until the closing song, "Voice Inside," the middle nine tunes still wrap their tentacles around your eardrums. "Killing Me" boasts an instantly catchy chorus, while "This Ain't Over" recalls classic Queen (a major influence for Hess). Even the two brief instrumentals - one electric and one acoustic - resonate with depth. Lyrically, Harem Scarem don't venture far from the highs and lows of relationships, and songs like "You Ruined Everything" and "If You" reek of romantic sarcasm and bitterness. In short, Weight of the World packs broad musical appeal, with melody and song structure taking precedent over lyrical content and image. It may not be as heavy as it could have been, but lots of heavy albums suck. In plain and simple terms, this does not suck.