Sometimes you listen to a band, which sounds uncannily like another one that you know well. This is the case here. I’d not heard of Hourswill, whose second album this is, but for me there is a stunning resemblance in the choruses to early Mercenary, in particular the “Everblack” and “11 Dreams” albums. I should add that it’s not a straight copy, and I can find no evidence that Portugal’s Hourswill have even heard of Denmark’s Mercenary. To disprove my own theory sections of “Children of the Void” and “Everyday Sage” slow down from the energy and melody, which characterise this album, and had a touch of Black Sabbath about them. In fact “Children of the Void” is an impressively deep and dark blood-drawing exercise. I read that “Harm Full Embrace” is an “epic collection of 8 new songs on which the blend of heavy, thrash, black, doom, and death metal with hard rock and progressive”. The problem with that description is that it doesn’t do justice to the band’s evident creativity any more than me saying it sounds like Mercenary.

I imagine that Hourswill would be a good live band. They know how to create a lively song. “At Harm’s Embrace”, is just one of a collection of riff-driven, energetic and melodic hard rock songs, but manages to break away and deliver a brief, moody ending. Moodiness is in there throughout, especially in the guitar work. The singer has a rough voice, and because of this and the style of play there’s a dark and edgy element. Yet the songs have a catchy and even anthemic element about them. “Harm Full Embrace” is full of attitude. It’s commercial yet dark. “Set me free from my dreams, set me free from what I’ve been”: this lyric from “Liberty Theory” is pure Mercenary in concept. It’s on a level with the Danes’ classic “World Hate Center”. The epic choral delivery is similar but hoarser and harsher. What provides Hourswill’s trademark is the instrumental output. It’s not flamboyant but is technically tight and refreshingly chunky, breaking away now again as happens on “Everyday Sage”, which starts melancholically with a classical guitar section before reverting to melodic type.

“Harm Full Embrace” is full of spirit and has lots of points of interest. In certain ways it’s quite rough and ready, but it’s also memorable and even anthemic. It’s quite an achievement to come up with something that combines dark, melodic and aspirational elements in the same framework, and Hourswill do this. But what I liked most of all was the drive, the life and the energy of this album.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)