Even from just a slight glance at the information that surrounds them, it’s not hard to think you’ve got Harbour Sharks sussed. In a world where A Day To Remember are one of the most prominent forces in modern rock, there’s a certain expectation surrounding a band who lists their inspirations as “metal, hardcore and pop-punk” that tends to be fulfilled in the exact way one would expect. That’s not necessarily to the band’s detriment, but so often that desire to adhere to such a specific sound ends up more disjointed than planned, and the imitation becomes all the more transparent.
As for Harbour Sharks though, they seem to be approaching a similar goal with a bit more tact that definitely plays to their advantage. A History Of Violence certainly plays out like a debut – there’s still an abundance of ideas that aren’t always capitalised on – but compared to some of the shoddier entries in this particular canon, this trio already feel like an independent entity rather than another no-name act riding on the coattails of A Day To Remember. And even then, it’s no great miracle that’s doing this, just some increased care taken in blending their sound and pulling out a few more distinctive turns. It helps that the trio are reaching for something a bit more thematically adventurous; both False Flags and Vulva lash out at the knee-jerk intolerance following recent terror attacks, and Abandon All Hope sees frontman Jack Morris crying out to his absent father and detailing the effects it’s had on him and his family. None of this is the typical fare for a new band at all, and to see Harbour Sharks approaching it with such gusto and confidence is definitely a pleasant sight to see.
Unfortunately the instrumentation does take a bit of a fall in comparison. It’s not really to do with the quality or effect though, more the fact that Harbour Sharks seem to be picking and choosing from half-a-dozen different sources, and while individual cohesion isn’t an issue (the blending of pop-punk and metal is genuinely some of the most impressive that a new band has demonstrated in some time), as a body of work, A History Of Violence struggles to really flow in a convincing fashion. Don’t Say Revenge may be the only song that fails to drum up some kind of connection, but there’s a feeling of this album having a general direction that it wants to go in and taking the most convoluted route possible to get there.
That’s not to say the route isn’t pleasant though, as Harbour Sharks prove themselves already to be dab hands at getting down some chunky, strident melodies that do actually stick. False Flags works well with some more prominent hardcore in a vein not too dissimilar to a less experienced Beartooth, and Swing Away Merrill and especially Burn Down London find favour in that heavier pop-punk vein that’s become such a draw over the past couple of years. Nothing that Harbour Sharks do is earth-shattering here, but when they pull it off with the sort of drive and gusto that’s on display here, that can be easily overlooked.
And besides, even if A History Of Violence is very much a case of a band still finding their feet and really settling on a direction to take, there’s nothing that feels particularly unsure here, nor do Harbour Sharks hold back in favour of playing it safe for their first proper effort. Here’s a band willing to take chances, and while those chances work better as individual pieces rather than a whole at the minute, they highlight an act that refuse to be slotted in amongst the beige dregs of the UK alt-rock scene, especially further down the line when that’ll present itself as more of an option. Right now, Harbour Sharks are ploughing forward with the sort of integrity that’s always a refreshing sight to see.
For fans of: A Day To Remember, Beartooth, Rise Against
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A History Of Violence’ by Harbour Sharks is released on 27th October.