Latest release: Detritus of the Final Age (Metal Blade)Website: www.facebook.com/HarlottOfficial

Like so many others, Melbourne thrashers Harlott should have been touring through Europe earlier this year. Their fourth album Detritus of the Final Age was set to drop just in time for them to take on the festival circuit where they would debut their new line-up. 

Of course, those plans came to nought.

“It was supposed to be out in May,” Harlott mastermind Andrew Hudson explains, “but we pushed it back about six months. We finished recording in January this year. We definitely had it finished when everything went bad. We had festivals in Europe that we were supposed to play, so we were making sure everything would line up beautifully. Then the world went to shit and we were forced to cop it.”

In spite of that, Hudson remains philosophical and upbeat: “It’s not the worst thing that could have happened. We came through it unscathed and we really consider it a bit of a minor inconvenience. A bit of a holiday!” 

It’s a remarkably positive attitude to present in the wake of one of the most problematic and tumultuous years in living memory, especially from an artist who has spent the best part of the last decade presenting what amounts to a cycle of albums depicting the fall of human civilization. Hudson admits to being a little disappointed on behalf of the newest members of his band, guitarist Leigh Bartley and drummer Glen Treyhern, who have yet to take on the European touring circuit. 

“I feel bad for them, because it was my chance to take them over them and show them all that stuff. I do feel bad, so I’m kind of obliged to go back once the world opens up again. The guys that are with the band now are incredible to work with, and pleasant and agreeable people, which is important. There’s no huge personalities or hidden agendas. They are doing it for the love of music, which is the thing you want. But I haven’t had a chance to take them overseas and see if I actually hate them!”

He laughs, but Detritus is the fourth album in a row with a different line-up. Bartley, who also plays in In Malice’s Wake, is the fourth guitarist Hudson has worked with in Harlott and Treyhern in the band’s third drummer. Hudson takes the blame for the amount of members who’ve passed through the band, though: “I definitely think the hardest one to get along with is me, but I’m the boss, so they have to cop it!”

Hudson has been Harlott’s major creative force over the course of the band’s career, that now extends to four albums and two EPs going back to 2011. While he’s never been averse to sharing the songwriting workload, it’s also something he doesn’t push too hard. 

“I want them to look back at songs and say, ‘That was mine’. It’s something that I definitely encourage. But I’m not going to force it. If they don’t have anything that they aren’t comfortable with, or that jumps out as right for the band then I’m not going to crack the whip and get them to hand it over.”

He stresses the importance of being out on the road to band stability and is pleased that Treyhern and Bartley have considerable experience with touring already.

“It’s good that they’ve done the hard yards with other bands, because they’re not expecting it to be a fairytale,” he says. “Touring with a band is gross, a lot of the time! There’s a fair bit of work, but there’s a lot of stuff that happens that you don’t tell people about when you get home. People ask how it was, and you definitely give them the 50% that was good. You leave out the, I haven’t showered in four days, and, I’ve been living on nothing but deli meats.” 

Harlott’s fourth album overall, Detritus of the Final Age is their third for the legendary Metal Blade label, a company that traditionally hasn’t had much to do with Australian bands but one that is also known to be fiercely loyal to their signings.

“The dealings we’ve had with them is that they are a business and it’s run as a business, but first and foremost they are people who are passionate about music,” Hudson believes. “They are metalheads, and they live for metal. They get incredible things done and they are remarkably successful, but they do it for the love. It’s hard to get the same revenue from music as you once could, so it’s just good to be working with people doing it for the right reasons. Their understanding of artists and how fickle we can be, so they’re patient and they give us enough space so we can write what we want to write and do it the way we want to do it, and then they come in with the support when we need it.”

Other parties have been less enamoured of Harlott’s classic Bay Area thrash leanings. In a 2017 article ahead of the release of Extinction, Metal Sucks straight up accused them of plagiarism. Specifically, it suggested that both The Penitent and And Darkness Brings the Light were direct Slayer rip-offs. Hudson doesn’t shy away from it.

“It was a correct identification. It was an absolutely spot-on observation that we have to draw our influences directly from Slayer, who are, as far as I’m concerned, the yardstick for thrash metal. We play a genre that was perfected by Slayer, and if people listen to us and immediately think of Slayer, I consider that a job well done.”

That said, he admits to a level of progression on Detritus of the Final Age that comes down to a furthering of maturity and ability. 

“You can listen to the album in the order in which the songs were written and hear that there’s more understanding of how to structure songs, more braver decisions that may not have happened before because there’s a bit more of a grasp on how to do transitions or other things that I may not have needed to try. Music ages in a way that shows we’ve been doing it for a while and this is the best bunch of musicians I’ve had in the band so you can definitely hear the level of skill has increased.”

Andrew Hudson isn’t concerned about haters. His band has now put out three albums through a major metal label and toured the world on the strength of their aggressive thrash. If people are taking their time to try to bring them down, at least they’re getting through.

“People don’t write hate articles about things they don’t care about,” he observes. “I knew we were getting somewhere in the scene when people were getting really, really angry that we were getting anywhere. People were filling themselves with bile knowing that we were getting any traction whatsoever. That’s when I knew we were making it.

“I don’t write music to upset people. I don’t write music for financial gain. I write music I like to listen to and want to play, and I’m just fortunate that other people like it as well. And if other people do like it, that’s the greatest boon that I can get out of it. If people hate it, then I apologise for upsetting them by expressing myself through my art!”