Headed by the powerful vocals of Madison Erhardt, Harmful Effects are a local metal act that have recently released their first album, one wrought with vast cross-genre experimentation and backed by an impressive and furious symphony of instrumentation.
All I knew about this band when their album arrived in my hands is that they played their music fast and loud — it was metal, of some sort. And having now listened to The Rising many times through, I’m still somewhat uncertain of how to classify their style. While it is likely best suited to the category of metalcore, The Rising is an album of contrasts, and to so narrowly label it would be selling it short.
In some instances, Adam Jones’s drumming takes on an exceptional, almost mechanical gallop which is rare outside of old-school thrash. In other places, lead guitarist Geoff Matisho’s riffs range from heavy and droning rhythms to complex, squealing and speed-driven solos.
The Rising opens with a gentle acoustic track (to me, reminiscent of early Opeth), which serves as a clever element of contrast to the brutal trampling of cacophonic bass-kicks and rapidly rising vocals.
Over the next several tracks, the vocal styles range from hardcore-style screaming to sweeping and melancholic harmonies. Perhaps the band’s only downfall is in the simplicity and predictability of their lyrics. The melodic vocal sections sound pretty much exactly as you’d imagine them to, with lyrics like “You’re not my end/Just the end of what I used to be.” For some, this will hold appeal (for instance, if you’re name is Ethel and you count embroidery and scrapbooking among your life’s passions), but for others, like myself, a lamentation on the pain of heartbreak grows tiresome faster than a Michael Batio quad-guitar solo.
Nevertheless, this says nothing of the vocal range or talent that Erhardt (as well as Matisho, who provides backing vocals on several tracks) demonstrates throughout the album, and is more or less a matter of personal preference. Despite the fact that my taste in metal typically features vocals better described as tumultuous and erratic, Erhardt’s transitioning between the two styles is rapid, seamless and impressive.
For me, the standout track on The Rising is, without a doubt, “Reborn,” which features a guitar solo so fast and well-devised it would make most old-guard thrash enthusiasts shit their pants with glee (but maybe that’s just because most purist thrash fans are at least 44 years old). If the first 20 seconds of this song isn’t enough to convince you of the technical proficiency of each of the instrumentalists in Harmful Effects’ line-up, the impressive solo “Holocaust” two tracks earlier will.