Harlequin: Origin of Suffering
Origin of Suffering is the 2nd full length release from the Los Angeles based metal band Harlequin. This trio absolutly destroys the extreme metal world as this album proves. Stabbyhamlet.com founder Andy Hamlet has written an extensive review for this LP, which follows this description. A free 4" Stabby sticker with every order. Free shipping in the United States. Support Harlequin directly at Harlequin1official.bandcamp.com
Release: Origin of Suffering
Review: Andy Hamlet via Stabbyhamlet.com
It should come as no surprise that Los Angeles is a hotbed of activity for bands. The City of Angels has been churning out metal like a steel factory during WWII for decades. Close to 4 million people call Tinseltown home, three of them standing above the rest. The trio that form Harlequin are some of the finest musicians the heavy metal community has to offer, and their latest unholy offering, Origin of Suffering, is an excellent example of this bold claim. Strap on your combat boots, because we’re taking a deep dive into this fiery cauldron of molten metal.
The title track gently grasps the listeners hands as the terrifying sound of a stalking predator accompanies a hauntingly angelic siren’s call. It’s easy to confuse the beginning of Origin of Suffering with many metal albums, with its creepy undertone and horror theme; however, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that this was the into to the track and not the entire album. Harlequin quickly spotlights their ability as the beautiful backing vocal is matched with the black metal terror of vocalist/guitarist Tawney Arredondo, powerfully supported by a rhythmic section the entire band absolutely owns. This song is short, sweet, and will kick you in the balls while you’re forced to beg for more, brilliantly setting the tone for much of what Origin of Suffering has to offer.
In the massive bloody sea that is extreme metal, Harlequin stands out in several ways, one being the contrasting vocals. Sure, bands have been experimenting with clean vocals, both male and female, along with deathly growls for years now, but Harlequin takes this formula to the next level. Bassist Rachel Solis compliments Tawney’s black metal style with some of the deepest death metal vocals this listener has ever heard. The black magic happens when the two styles overlap. Don’t be surprised if you start looking around the room awaiting the arrival of Satan when these two talents share vocal arrangements. Thankfully this satisfying style is not overdone. In fact, Harlequin uses this particular tool quite sparingly, making it all the more enjoyable when the double ups happen. Throughout most of Origin of Suffering the two vocalists switch between each other, offering a welcome variety for much of the recording.
Harlequin’s musical capabilities certainly back up the distinction they have in the vocal category. Guitar riffs are not overly complicated, but often have just enough melody to hold the listeners attention throughout the entire piece. There are no lead guitar sections, but that certainly isn’t from a lack of talent. Sweep picking sections are peppered throughout the recording and any guitarist will tell you “that shit isn’t easy”. Many bassists in the genre tend to back up the music, creating bland and unimaginative sections, but Harlequin once again stands out in this category. Bass parts are clearly developed and implemented, often rising above the commonly dominating guitar parts. It’s satisfying to hear a string section so committed to writing, clarity, and performance. We certainly cannot overlook the masterful performance from drummer Neyda Umana. One can find an overabundance of near impossibly fast blast beats on almost any extreme metal recording these days, and its nice to see Neyda decided to go a different direction. Sure, the blast beats are still present, but they do not muddy up the waters of the melody provided by the phenomenal song writing. The rhythm drives hard and fast as needed and the timing is spot on. The drumming on this recording stands out as some of the most talented an artist can provide. High quality production provides amazing musical clarity, an absolute must for the intriguing song structures.
The songs on Origin of Suffering are easily the most well-paced and brilliantly organized a metal album can be. It would be difficult for a listener to get distracted while spinning these tracks. Each song has a groove all on its own, each worthy of their own praise. The enjoyable pace of this album is partially due to the short song times, the average being about 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Two tracks, Unattainable Tranquility and The Day That Never Came, are gorgeous classical guitar pieces that beautifully provide a respite from the well-structured chaos dominated by the remainder of the album and perfectly contribute to the pace and overall vibe. These instrumentals hit hard due to their perfect placement throughout the 12 tracks available on Origin of Suffering. Riot is another notable track as it deals with the pandemic of 2020 and the chaos we all brought upon ourselves. Regardless of the side you chose, Harlequin has brilliantly framed this moment in time with a song documenting our odd behavior. The track We Didn’t Planet was a fun diversion from the rest of the album. This particular piece showcases many of the musical distinctions discussed throughout this review, including sweep picking, tight drumming, melodic bass lines, and one of the most creative chorus sections on the entire album.
One final thought regarding the originality of Harlequin reverts back to Tawney Arredondo, who triples as the band’s graphic designer and cover artist. Tawney certainly isn’t the first musician to provide the artwork for their own group, but considering the many hats she already wears, it’s worth noting. A quick Google search of “Tawney Arredondo” brought up a Facebook artist page close to the top, so there isn’t much difficulty locating the work she has accomplished.
Harlequin’s Origin of Suffering is an amazing release that deserves the attention of any metal fan. The musical talent and writing capabilities established by this trio are beyond anything the underground has offered before. In an oversaturated sea of rinse and repeat metal bands, its wonderful to see such an original group emerge to provide direction for the next generation. Judging by the performance shown on Origin of Suffering, Harlequin might just be the next massive success to come out of Los Angeles. And if not, hail to the underground!
Neyda Umana - Drums
Tawney Arredondo - Guitar/Vocals
Rachel Solis - Bass/Vocals