Review – Harrow: Fallow Fields

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  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Broken Limb Recordings
  • Release Date: February 17th, 2015
  • Genre: Black Metal, Folk Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Harrow originally formed back in 2009 under the name Wraith. The duo of vocalist/guitarist Ian Campbell and drummer Kyle Brickell (A Winter Lost, Isabrut) issued three demos under this name. Two of these dropped in 2010, but the third and final came in 2011, which was the year this entity changed names to what we have today. Joining them was bassist Chase “C. Hellvomit” Sutherland (A Winter Lost, Ossuary Vault), only to leave in 2012. That year, Derrek Burton took over his position in the group, followed by violin/keyboardist Alexia Horozian was brought in, both of which lasted roughly a year. However, it was the departure of Brickell later on in 2012 that really shook the foundation. Now, Harrow operates as a three piece. Ian Campbell remains as the only remaining founder, joined by drummer Jacob Moyer (Human Demise, Walden) and bassist Kat Mason. During all this, there have been two demos, two albums, and a split with Walden. But, for 2015, the three-piece unit presents their third full-length effort, Fallow Fields, through Broken Limbs Recordings. Does it show the wear and tear of the revolving door that is their line-up, or is it a fairly solid offering overall?

As one might expect from the group, Fallow Fields‘ audio quality does stick a little more to the raw side of things, giving much of the performance a bit of a live feeling transferred from a cassette than a highly digitized studio production. The guitars actually wind up a bit buried to the loud, booming bass guitar presence, the vocals are just about on par, and the same goes for the drum kit save the bass kicks that are a noticeable thud. The only time this format really winds up altered is when the music ends up cleaner thanks to a slower acoustic-driven pace.

“Pathways” is a prime example of all that. A brief audio clip of waves crashing to shore is interrupted with unplugged chords reminiscent of The Who‘s “Behind Blue Eyes”, gradually departing to introduce Folk inspired keyboards and the rest of the musicians that continue a lengthy build, though never forsake the emotional atmosphere the lengthy start created. What follows is basically bass domination, pulling your attention to the mid-range pulsing in rhythm to the solid drum patterns, and nothing more. While the track does have it’s harsher tendencies, most of the song winds up on the relaxed side, taking its time to get to the next passage or change in direction like the seven minute mark that reintroduces the acoustic guitars for a decent amount of time, aided by the haunting violin that stirs up melancholic My Dying Bride-grade gothic sensations. It’s a welcome practice given the extended track lengths the band strives for, such as this performance that is just shy of fifteen-minutes total.

Despite Harrow showing great ties to the Black Metal world, it’s shed for an obvious Folk influence. “Through the Grey” is a lighter track that starts off upbeat in a sixties Folk Rock singer/songwriter manner. The emptier start allows the thud of the bass kicks to come through more like a heart beat, even when the guitars introduce a slightly sharpened distortion with the bass chiming in louder once again. The jovial times start to mellow as you approach three minutes in, as if fading to a tiring sadness with a setting sun. What follows incorporatess a sense of Iron Maiden bass lines and grandeur. It’s interesting, but still winds up suffering the same domination that “Pathways” does.

“Awake Before the Dawn” starts off much like “Through the Grey”, setting up a very sombre world that can be a bit depressing at times. Sadly, those emotions don’t last too long, nor does it leave all that strong an impact. There’s also “Fallow Fields”, a laid back star-gazing experience that slowly picks up richness, coming off more like the tension in the minutes leading to marching off to battle, all complete with soft clean singing buried a bit by the instruments.

While the band is known for dabbling in the Folk world on previous outings, this new recording marks a clear and distinct change in direction since 2011’s Wanderer, more than likely thanks to general band growth and the almost yearly line-up changes. Hopefully, as time goes on, Harrow will grow into this early Folk Rock style, as there is some potential for it to be a mild success the more this trio works at it. Until then, we have Fallow Fields to consider, and it simply isn’t on par with the atmospheric power this band has shown in the past, or even on par with other Blackened Folk Metal acts lurking in the underground.

HarrowDigital review copy of this release provided by Broken Limb Recordings.