Released: 2005, Black Harvest
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
Initial reaction: What the hell is this shit?
Subsequent, sustained reaction: What the hell is this creative, technically-decent shit?
If bands like And Oceans and Requiem Aeternam actually have fans, Black Harvest would appeal to them. Like April Ethereal and Kollapse before them, Black Harvest seek—in an offbeat sort of way—to be the U.S. answer to Ulver or, at times, even Opeth. Sadly, they seek after folly—madness, I say! Madness! The music of Ulver or, yes, even Opeth, is not a question; it is a statement. And that statement is, “Fuck all y’all—we’re Ulver (or Opeth), and you’re not.”
But I’m just being contrary now. Let’s give this band a fair shake, eh?
The music is, in fact, well-played. It is, in fact, creative. It is also, in fact, nothing new.
The ritualistic solo vocal opening is, like the vast majority of vocals here, well-meaning but limp. It often detracts from the inherent beauty and quality of the music—which, almost to spite this reviewer’s cynicism, does reach fascinating heights at times. “Die, Lavinia” is an exception to the rule, vocally. Here, the vocals reach a somewhat Carcass-like plateau, with a surprising qualitative melodic chorus croon, that brought to mind the frailty of early Burton Bell (Fear Factory). The mechanical drums only add to this effect. Guitar-wise, this is steeped in Rotting Christ and vintage Katatonia. And—glory be!—you can actually hear the bass guitar for longer than a rumbling hum or five beneath the surface. This band can actually play; it’s simply that they merely play along, more times than not. Something keeps this group from kicking in.
Perhaps it is the epic lengths of the songs; the tracks are long and arduous like slow-screwing a jar of liquid cement, sometimes. Maybe it is the unfocused meandering of the compositions, which, in a more experienced band, would have translated into diversity—here, it just sounds scattered, like flecks of greasy dandruff off the drum programmer’s scalp.
“Let Us Go” rumbles and slithers with an early-nineties Death Metal thump; this almost works. It’s clear this band own a copy of HEARTWORK, and maybe even the Disincarnate LP. Sometimes, I hear Cancer…but then, I realize that I’m shirking my duties, and put this CD back in for review…
But seriously, this tries so fucking hard to be different, that it sounds largely the same. Again, Requiem Aeternam comes to mind. With a little work on the vocals, this could be quite the “Fixer-upper” for a young, hungry label looking to advance their roster.
My complaint is not that they are a Black Metal-inspired act from New York. New York also produced bands like Profanatica and Havohej—all pretty cult stuff, really. My problem is that they desperately need Ritalin. (And while we’re at it, throw me some, too). “Harvest Of Souls” is decent. Something like “New Year’s Day” could have been brilliant, but it falls just short. Maybe it takes too long to build, or maybe the vocals simply overreach.
It’s almost as if vocalist Kishor is too confident, convinced that if he just keeps doing something, it will work, and if he keeps changing his approach, it will work even better. On this track, the vocals summon up everything from Roy Orzabal (Tears For Fears) to Michael Gira (Swans) to Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates), and it never really clicks, no matter whose snipped and poorly stitched-up skin he tries to wear.
In the end, Black Harvest sound like an amalgam of a great many bands, but there is still no definitive “Black Harvest sound.” Truly, in the end, the only sound I heard was the clink and clatter of the CD being thrown back in the pile.