2000, Nocturnal Art Productions
As much as I have been complaining about the unwelcome intrusion of electronics and/or electronica into the black metal scene lately, I was still hoping that if the Norwegians were convinced they were on the right track for their own progression, sooner or later a band would come along - spawned completely anew, or from the ashes of members' past projects - that would be able to create an amalgam of black metal and techno or 'industrial' that could claim legitimacy in an otherwise sterile scene - a band that pulled off the combination with elegance, ease, and grace, and one that (most importantly) wrote music that was worth listening to on its own merits, outside of its novelty as another salvo in the war to wrench the Norwegian scene into the 'modern age'. Red Harvest is a compromise of sorts, because they are not a 'black metal band' proper, overwhelmingly influenced by industrial, nor are they really a completely electronic entity that saw fit to try to introduce frosty atmospheres into their songs in order to latch onto the black metal scene's potential. No, this is actually Red Harvest's fifth release, and it marks a departure for Samoth's label as well as my understanding of what the Norwegian scene was capable of producing.
Red Harvest (is the name taken from Hammett's roman noir? Who knows?) combine some of the darker edges of Skinny Puppy's rabid sound (some of the more lucid darkwave moments off Last Rites, for example) with a tint or touch of Ministry's abrasive guitars, the gargantuan fuzzed-out aggro guitar of mid-period Godflesh, and overriding synth stratospherics straight from soundtrack work or the darkest of the techno bands with a cold, austere, grim, sterile sound of their own, seemingly related to the black metal bands that doubtlessly cluster all around this group in their native Oslo. The second track, 'Last Call', is a good example: it sounds like Burzum circa 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' set to crashing industrial samples and waves of cascading guitar ambience, while a punching, over-distorted bass slips and slides around a simple line and human and machine beats pulse, creak, and batter in the background. The moody synth work in this song is very relaxed and simple, revolving around a beautiful dark melody that is evocative of night-time cityscapes or a high-speed cyberflight over realms of snow and ice, and it quickly made this song my favorite off the album. Very impressive.
The track after this, 'Absolut Dunkelheit', starts off in the grand black metal manner, mixing a snapping rapid snare with fast tremelo riffing ala Dark Funeral, before coming to a sudden halt and switching gears completely, initiating a download of strobing techno beats and distempered, downward-looking riffage. Before long (at 2:00) the song switches yet again back to a more metal-influenced style and it somehow all fits together and makes perfect sense. The rest of the record follows suit.
Red Harvest pull off this combination of styles in a way that I didn't think I was going to hear anytime soon from the Norwegian music collective. I wholeheartedly recommend this album to people who are still mystified by what's going on in the black metal scene over there and who want to hear the potential of music that mixes some of the atmospheric elements of black metal with a modern or 'futuristic' outlook. This is an excellent work of art by a band that I hope to hear more from in the future.